Daily Israel Report

Oren: Israel Only Place in Mideast Christians Aren't Endangered

Ambassador Oren: As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, Christians are forced from lands they've inhabited for centuries.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 3/11/2012, 3:23 PM

Tourists in the Nativity Church
Tourists in the Nativity Church
Flash 90

Israel has become the only safe haven for Christians in the Middle East, Ambassador to the United State Michael Oren wrote in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

“As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they've inhabited for centuries,” Ambassador Oren stated, comparing the expulsion of Jews in the twentieth century with the Arab countries' current treatment of their Christian minorities.

Oren explained that the population of Christians in the Middle East has significantly decreased, dropping from 20 percent a century ago to less than 5 percent today, with the numbers still diminishing. 

“In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer,” Oren explained.

He noted that while Christians are granted full rights and privileges within Israel’s borders, the treatment they receive by the ‘Palestinian’ population is quite different, noting that  “[s]ince the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled.”

“Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors,” Oren said. He then went on to give the example of Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, who was murdered and whose “store [was] reduced to ashes.

“The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren't endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel's founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%,” Oren affirmed.

“Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court,” he continued.

While the ambassador explained that the Christian minority may, occasionally, encounter intolerance, Israel remains committed to its Declaration of Independence, which pledges to "ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion” and guarantees free access to all Christian holy places. 

The Arab countries in the Middle East, however, do not seek to uphold any such rights and the hatred of Christians is only “ignored or encouraged.”

“The extinction of the Middle East's Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude. Yet Israel provides an example of how this trend can not only be prevented but reversed. With the respect and appreciation that they receive in the Jewish state, the Christians of Muslim countries could not only survive but thrive,” Oren wrote.