Can Middle Eastern Christians Lead the Way in Combating Anti-Semitism?

Feb. 12 2020

Born and raised to a Christian family in Iraq, Bawai Soro eventually settled in Canada and pursued a career as a priest; since 2017, he has served as a bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada. Soro believes strongly in the importance of the theological links between Judaism and Christianity, and sees Abraham—born in the ancient city of Ur—as an “Iraqi-Mesopotamian” who is the spiritual progenitor of both religions. In an interview with Amanda Achtman, he discusses his hopes that his fellow Middle Eastern Christians will put aside their traditional anti-Semitism:

Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish people, came from Mesopotamia, which meant that somehow Mesopotamia was a “home” for [Jews] as well. After numerous exiles, which resulted in the Jews’ . . . establishing a home in Mesopotamia for more than a millennium, they enjoyed life in large numbers within large territory under circumstances [often] much better than [those experienced by] their fellow Jews in Palestine or elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the [average] Iraqi Christian shares the same understanding of history and theological nuances. Two reasons come to mind: lack of religious [education] and living for a long time in a culture that is characterized by tendencies to anti-Semitism. . . . And so, the duty of the church is to explain the history of Christianity and to teach its theology [more properly].

I myself was raised in Iraq in the 1950s and 60s to be a person critical and fearful of the state of Israel. Such political doctrine was instilled in the minds of schoolboys and girls since childhood. Plus, the anti-Jewish material in church literature and liturgical texts made the case for loving Judaism and the Jewish people, if not impossible, then surely very difficult.

I think it is very possible, [however], that Middle Eastern Christian clergy and laity will help combat anti-Semitism and cultivate a greater reverence for the Jewish sources of Christianity in their respective traditions as well as for the Jewish people in modern communities everywhere.

Read more at Providence

More about: Abraham, Arab anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity, Philo-Semitism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount