Pope Benedict XVI convened a synod (meeting) of Middle Eastern bishops to discuss the attacks on the Catholic church in Muslim lands. However, the bishops have been talking more against Israel than about Muslim aggression against Catholics – or at least, it was the anti-Israeli angle that the Associated Press news agency chose to play up.
According to the report, the pope denounced "terrorist ideologies" that spur violence in G-d's name and said they were based on false gods and should be "unmasked." However, he despite his own advice, he did not “unmask” the ideology threat by specifying that he was talking about Islamic terrorism.
On Monday, the synod's opening day, “attention focused on the decision by Israel to require new citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to a 'Jewish and democratic' state — a bill criticized by Arab Israelis as racist and a provocation,” AP reported.
The Coptic Catholic patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, Antonios Naguib, who is in charge of running the synod, said that the Israeli decision contained a "flagrant contradiction" since Israel likes to call itself “not just the most democratic but the only democratic state in the region.”
"You cannot announce, publish and affirm to be a democratic state and a civil democracy then at the same time say 'in our democracy we require such things,'" Naguib said. "In the logic of classic democracies, that doesn't work," he said.
As mentioned above, Benedict summoned the synod in order to discuss the flight of Christians from their homes in the Middle East. In Iraq, for example, Catholics represented almost three percent of the population in 1980, but by 2008 they were less than 1 percent.
Benedict cited "ideological terrorism" as one of the forces that "enslave" men and threaten the world.
Naguib presented the synod with a position paper that outlined the challenges facing Christians in the region, particularly the rise of fanatical Islam. "This phenomenon seeks to impose the Islamic way of life on all citizens,” he said, “at times using violent methods, thus becoming a threat which we must face together," he said.
Muslims often physically attack Christians in Middle Eastern countries, including the Palestinian Authority .
In May of 2009, Muslims went on a rampage and desecrated 70 Christian graves in Samaria. They smashed gravestones and knocked metal and stone crosses off graves in the village of Jiffna, near Ofra, home to approximately 900 Christians and 700 Muslims. Greek Orthodox Church official George Abdo told Reuters the head and hand of a statue of Madonna were also severed.
Attacks on Christian targets and those identified with Western culture grew more frequent in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, experts said. The targets have included churches, Christian and United Nations schools, the American International School, libraries and Internet cafes.
Another report said that the PA was encouraging a "sharp demographic shift" in Bethlehem, where the Christian population went from a 60 percent majority in 1990 to being about 15 percent of the city's total population today.