As I See It: Israel’s new Christian friends

Two largely untold stories about global Christianity have the capacity to shake the world order.

By Melanie Phillips, JPOST

Pope Francis

Pope Francis. Photo: REUTERS
The pope’s imminent visit to Israel will rightly attract much attention. But two largely untold stories about global Christianity have the capacity to shake the world order.

The first is the persecution of Christians in the developing world at the hands of Islam. Boko Haram, which has kidnapped more than 250 Christian schoolgirls in Nigeria, is merely one of many Islamist groups increasingly terrorizing and killing Christians across the developing world.

According to Open Doors, a nondenominational Christian group, about 100 million Christians are being persecuted in more than 65 countries, with radical Muslims the main perpetrators in 36 of them.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been attacked, murdered, and driven out. In December 2013, at least 1,000 Christians were killed in the Central African Republic. In February this year, jihadists bombed churches in Zanzibar as “dens of non-believers.” In March, members of Somalia’s al-Shabaab militia publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians.

The same month in Nigeria, more than 150 Christians were butchered in a massacre in Kaduna; this week, hundreds died in bomb attacks in the Christian areas of the towns of Kano and Jos.

In Sudan, Christians have been hacked to death for refusing to convert to Islam or burned alive inside their churches.

Last week, a pregnant mother was sentenced to death there for allegedly converting to Christianity. In Eritrea, more than 3,000 Christians are in prison. In Iran, Christians are being jailed and thousands have fled. There are countless other examples.

Remarkably, however, Western mainstream churches largely ignore this carnage amongst their worldwide communion.

Instead, they appease Islam and vilify Israel, the one country in the Middle East where Christians are safe (but that’s another story).

One wonders whether the pope will speak out clearly against this Christian victimization when he meets representatives of Islam on his visit to what he calls the Holy Land. He reportedly wants to heal the fissure between Jews and Palestinians. Very nice; but surely his priority should be stopping the slaughter of his own flock.

Yet here’s the really extraordinary thing. Across the developing world, including countries where Christians are being persecuted, the churches are experiencing phenomenal growth. If trends persist, Europe’s Christians will be overtaken by those in Africa, Latin America and Asia, most of the growth driven by the astounding expansion of Pentecostal, Charismatic and other evangelical churches.

In his book The Next Christendom; The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins writes that, since 1965, the Christian population of Africa has risen from a quarter of the total to about 46 percent.

In Nigeria, Christian rallies draw between one and three million people. In Ethiopia, the church has some 25 million members. Churches are expanding in Niger, Burkina Faso, Toga, Benin, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Chad.

In Latin America, Christian numbers have exploded; they will reach an estimated 640 million by 2025. In Rio de Janeiro, no fewer than 700 Pentecostal churches opened during a three-year period in the early 1990s. The Jotabeche Methodist Pentecostal cathedral in Santiago, Chile, can seat 18,000 people.

In Iran, of all places, the churches are experiencing the fastest expansion in the world with estimated annual growth rates of more than 20 percent. According to some sources, the number of Iranian evangelicals has grown from a few hundred in 1979 to more than five million today.

It’s even happening in China. Mao expelled Christian missionaries and predicted that “colonialist” Christianity would disappear. Yet from a total of 900,000 then, Chinese Christians have now grown to at least 80 million.

One reason for such growth is that people who have suffered from repressive regimes are turning to a religion which (thanks to its Jewish roots) underpins freedom and human rights. The more barbaric Islamic regimes become, the more people turn to Christianity. Just a few years ago Algeria, for example, had around 1,500 Christians; under its repressive Islamist government, their numbers have swelled to nearly 200,000.

The striking feature of these new Christians is that, because they are evangelicals and thus take very seriously what is written in the Bible, they devoutly support Israel.

Algerian Christians say they pray in secret for Israel and the Jewish people. Last year, Nigeria refused to vote automatically with the Palestinians on statehood in the UN Security Council.

Westerners may feel uncomfortable about these new churches since they emphasize healing, prophecy, visions, ecstatic utterances and the supernatural. But they are amongst Israel’s best friends in the world. And their amazing growth has major global implications.

In the West, Christianity is in decline. Even in the US where the churches are still relatively strong, the culture war is being lost to the forces of galloping secularism. With the Islamic world exploiting this civilizational vacuum, Britain and Europe are steadily being Islamized. At same time, the developing world is becoming Christianized. The face of Christianity is thus changing color, from white to (its original) brown and black.

This growth is a huge opportunity for Israel because these new Christians are free from the poisonous hostility towards it of the Western churches. Encouragingly, Israel has come to view these new allies as a strategic asset, but it needs to invest in them much more, helping improve their economies and living standards, to cement this friendship and use it to transform Israel’s leverage at the UN.

It’s not true that time is running out for Israel. Time is running out for the West. It’s not true that Israel is friendless.

It has many friends. Just different ones. And it has to nurture them more carefully.

This pope seems also to be a friend, apparently wanting to put relations between the Vatican and the Jewish people onto a different footing. The ugly protests at his visit from ultra-Orthodox hooligans are sickening. Let’s hope Israel hugs Pope Francis close.

Melanie Phillips is a columnist for 
The Times (UK).

May 23, 2014 | 29 Comments »

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29 Comments / 29 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:
    Yamit82,

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but did not the two links you posted above (Evangelical support declining) affirm not rebut what Melanie Philips said? Essentially, she said that Evangelical support in the West was declining but that Evangleism is rising in the non White world. South Sudan recognises Jerusalem. China’s Evangelical growing population is very pro Israel.

    Europe is post Christian and America is going the same way. I do not believe that America will ever become anti-Israel the way Europe is, but as Liberalism grows it will not remain pro Israel either.

    For this, the new powers that reject Liberalism and embrace Evangelism are surely a friend for Israel.

    Having said that, I do not believe that Israel’s success depends on Christian support at all. It never has, and never will. We know where that support comes from.

  2. @ Bear Klein:

    There ain’t a dirty joke that ,ol’cowboy hasn’t heard. He say when heard it was about a New Yorker who wanted to become a Texan.

  3. @ mar55: On my father’s side of the family (also from Vienna) his sister, her husband and my grandmother also escaped to England.

    My son is an Orthopedic Surgeon so we have some family similarities.

  4. @ honeybee: Ask Tex, if he heard this joke, ” One night, two Eskimos are sitting in a bar in northern Alaska, when they are accosted by a young man from the Mainland. The fellow has obviously been drinking. He slurs, “Hey, ya know, I’ve always admired you Eskimos. I REEAAALLLY like Eskimos. I’ve ALWAYS WANTED to be an Eskimo. Tell me how ta BE an Eskimo, huh?”

    The Eskimos wink at each other. One tells the guy, “Okay, to become an Eskimo, there are only three things that you have to do. First, you’ve got to drink a whole bottle of Yukon Jack at once, then you’ve got to kill a polar bear with your bare hands, and, finally, you have to make love to an Eskimo woman.”

    The guy takes this in. He ticks off three fingers to himself. Then he heads over to the bar, and orders a bottle of Yukon Jack. Already drunk, he drinks the whole thing down. This has a bad effect on his balance. The fellow staggers out of the bar, muttering something like “Polar bear, Polar bear…”

    Several hours pass.

    Finally, the door to the bar opens, and the drunk is back. He looks a fright. His parka is ripped, one of his arms is dangling at a crazy angle, and he’s got blood all over his face. He staggers over to the Eskimos, and says, “ALL right. I’ve got the Yukon Jack. I’ve got the polar bear. Now WHERE’S THIS ESKIMO BITCH I’VE GOTTA KILL?”

  5. @ the phoenix:
    I sent this awhile ago but here it goes.

    RABBI: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet, PC, iPad, smart phone, and Kindles, to Art Scroll page 232. And please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”

    P-a-u-s-e

    “Now, Let us Daven. Open your Apps, BBM, Twitter and Facebook and chat with God.”

    S-i-l-e-n-c-e

    “As we schnorrer and accept charity, please have your credit and debit cards ready.

    You can log on to the Shul Wi-Fi using the password ‘Hashem18.’ The Shammies will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the congregants. Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the Shul. Those who prefer to use iPads can open them. Those who prefer telephone banking, take out your cell phones to transfer your contributions to the Shul account. This week’s shiur will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out. Thursday’s Talmud Torah study will be held live on Skype at 1900hrs GMT. Please don’t miss out. You can follow the Rabbi on Twitter this weekend for counseling and prayers.”

  6. @ the phoenix:
    Very funny but more than a doctor he is a very good father and husband. As a hobby he likes to work with wood and makes wonderful furniture.
    I wish he would go to live in Israel with his family. The only reason for mentioning that he was a doctor is because both paternal grandparents were also doctors. Perhaps my grandchildren will become something else. Now, you are not the only one with Jewish jokes.
    The funniest in this forum is HB. I have never seen anyone who as soon as the topic gets boring or people start getting too serious about unimportant things she can in what a cat can wink its eyes change the conversation and the narrative of the discussion. She starts with a comment or a funny question to yamit92 or to you and before you know it everyone has lightened up. Clever girl.

  7. yamit82 Said:

    .
    It is in human nature to extend compassion but not help to others

    Sweetheart, are you really that hard, and if you are….WHY?

  8. yamit82 Said:

    I have a moral and ethical question. Was it moral for any Jew to seek or receive help from someone else especially a gentile if that help endangered the life or lives of those willing to help a Jew in

    Did the Jew ask for help, or did the Gentile offer help.

  9. Thanks for wishes to my mother from all. I forget to my mention my aunt (my mother’s sister) who was hidden in Vienna by a gentile family the entire war and who lived until 101.

    So I have personal knowledge of righteous Christians.

    I have met many who support Israel and so I believe that Melanie Phillips is correct that Israel has friends in the world.

  10. @ Bear Klein:

    I have a moral and ethical question. Was it moral for any Jew to seek or receive help from someone else especially a gentile if that help endangered the life or lives of those willing to help a Jew in need?

    The righteous gentiles affair during the Holocaust is misinterpreted and over-touted. Less than 0.01 percent of gentiles in the countries where the Holocaust occurred were engaged in saving Jews. Dozens of times more gentiles were engaged in murder, as executioners or accessories. Still more of them created an atmosphere of hostility in which Jews thought it futile to attempt hiding, and which atmosphere dissuaded other gentiles from helping Jews.

    Jewish law absolutely prohibits a Jew to risk his life saving another Jew, let alone gentiles. Rabbinical law lauds gentiles who save Jews on the assumption that such actions increase the amount of G-d worship in the world by Jews. In other words, the point is to save a subject who would observe the commandments and praise G-d with his life. That was not the case with the saved Jews: by far, most of them were assimilated atheists.

    It was therefore morally wrong for the Jews to accept the gentiles’ efforts to save them at the risk of their own lives. In Russia and Ukraine, the Germans executed many of the families of righteous gentiles, sometimes in horrendous fashion. In Western Europe the punishment was usually limited to imprisonment in forced labor camps, so the risk was moderate, and Jews might not have been wrong to ask for help.

    Nations are judged as a whole, like Sodom. When many Ukrainians persecuted Jews, it was appropriate for a few to try rectifying the wrong. But it might have been shameful for Jews to accept salvation at grave risk to their saviors.

    It is in human nature to extend compassion but not help to others.

  11. @ mar55:

    My son in law […] he is a surgeon.

    The year is 2016 and the United States has just elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb. She calls up her mother a few weeks after election day and says, ‘So, Mom, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration?’

    ‘I don’t think so. It’s a ten hour drive, your father isn’t as young as he used to be, and my arthritis is acting up again.’

    ‘Don’t worry about it Mom, I’ll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home. And a limousine will pick you up at your door.’

    ‘I don’t know. Everybody will be so fancy-schmantzy, what on earth would I wear?’

    Oh Mom, replies Susan, ‘I’ll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York.’

    ‘Honey,’ Mom complains, ‘you know I can’t eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat.’

    The President-to-be responds, ‘Don’t worry Mom. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in New York, kosher all the way. Mom, I really want you to come.’

    So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 20, 2017, Susan Goldfarb is being sworn in as President of the United States. In the front row sits the new president’s mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next to her.

    ‘You see that woman over there with her hand on the Torah, becoming President of the United States

    The Senator whispers back, ‘Yes I do.’

    Mom says proudly, ‘Her brother is a doctor.’

    🙂

  12. @ Bear Klein:
    Bear Klein, It is great to hear that your mother was saved and you are alive because of it. As HB said I also wish your mother and you be bless and may she live to be at least 120. My daughter’s grandfather/mother in laws are also from Austria. They escaped separately to England. Their parents were not so lucky. They perished.
    They were separated and did not know where one another had ended up. While they were in London they independently went to a place where refugees were being helped. They needed eyeglasses since both had bad vision. Well, that is how they were reunited. Both of them were physicians. My son in law is third generation with the exception that unlike his grandfather who was a great family doctor and retired at 75, he is a surgeon.
    My best withes to your mom.

  13. @ honeybee:
    @ Bear Klein:

    Plant a Cedar in her honor!!

    Done!
    This particular one, is a ‘transplant’.
    It has been moved from a different spot, and in spite of harsh winters that took their toll on the top half (weight of the snow) it is still in vigor.
    In short – it is a survivor! And I found it to be quite apropos.

  14. The Righteous Among The Nations

    In a world of total moral collapse there was a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values. These were the Righteous Among the Nations. They stand in stark contrast to the mainstream of indifference and hostility that prevailed during the Holocaust. Contrary to the general trend, these rescuers regarded the Jews as fellow human beings who came within the bounds of their universe of obligation.

    Most rescuers started off as bystanders. In many cases this happened when they were confronted with the deportation or the killing of the Jews. Some had stood by in the early stages of persecution, when the rights of Jews were restricted and their property confiscated, but there was a point when they decided to act, a boundary they were not willing to cross. Unlike others, they did not fall into a pattern of acquiescing to the escalating measures against the Jews.

    In many cases it was the Jews who turned to the non-Jew for help. It was not only the rescuers who demonstrated resourcefulness and courage, but also the Jews who fought for their survival. Wolfgang Benz, who did extensive research on rescue of Jews during the Holocaust claims that when listening to rescue stories, the rescued persons may seem to be only objects for care and charity, however “the attempt to survive in illegality was before anything else a self-assertion and an act of Jewish resistance against the Nazi regime. Only few were successful in this resistance”.

    Faced with Jews knocking on their door, bystanders were faced with the need to make an instant decision. This was usually an instinctive human gesture, taken on the spur of the moment and only then to be followed by a moral choice. Often it was a gradual process, with the rescuers becoming increasingly involved in helping the persecuted Jews. Agreeing to hide someone during a raid or roundup – to provide shelter for a day or two until something else could be found – would evolve into a rescue that lasted months and years.

    The price that rescuers had to pay for their action differed from one country to another. In Eastern Europe, the Germans executed not only the people who sheltered Jews, but their entire family as well. Notices warning the population against helping the Jews were posted everywhere. Generally speaking punishment was less severe in Western Europe, although there too the consequences could be formidable and some of the Righteous Among the Nations were incarcerated in camps and killed.

    http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/about.asp</blockquote

    >

  15. Bear Klein Said:

    As much as Christians have done horrible things to Jews. Their are certainly Christians that are among our friends.

    Spare me your sentimental trope.

  16. As much as Christians have done horrible things to Jews. Their are certainly Christians that are among our friends.

    I know for one I would not be alive as my mother fleeing the Holocaust from Austria was saved from death by Nuns in Italy. They got her a job and place to live until she was able to flee from Europe entirely.

    Those who try and make all Christians out as evil, really swirl around in a cesspool of hate.

  17. I used to largely agree with Philips but this article reflects that she is not only ill informed she is a sacred exilic rabbit afraid of her shaddow and will it seems latch on to any crutch or lifeline she believes will delay her inevitable and forced flight from her country of birth. She is really a fool. I’m very disappointed in her.

    Is the End Near…For Evangelical Support?

    Israel’s Grip on Evangelical Christians Loosens
    Younger Generation Open to Palestinian Side of Conflict

    “…progressive voices in the evangelical movement are stepping forward and putting poverty and environmental concerns at the top of their agenda. They are meeting with Arab ambassadors, distancing themselves from Israel’s national camp, and promoting a two-state solution. Theopolitical winds could be shifting.”

    David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), wrote a widely disseminated, eye-opening piece for the spring edition of the Middle East Quarterly titled “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?”.

    As Muslim Arabs don’t change their stripes neither do christians. In the end we are alone and that’s the way it’s meant to be. It’s always been them against us and only stupid Jews like Phillips believe otherwise.

    ““Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.”(Num. 23:9)

    [It is] G-d’s decree that the Jewish People must remain apart, separate from the nations, so as to be cut off from their abominations, and their alien culture. Toward that end, G-d established for the Jewish People a special land of their own, the Land of Israel. There and there alone they would live lives of G-dliness and build a perfect state and society based on Torah and holiness. The concept of a Jewish People alone is tied to the concept that G-d is alone. G-d is alone and cannot be compared or equated to anything else. He is One and Unique, as it says (Deut. 4:35), “You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that the L-rd is G-d and there is none besides Him”; and, “To Him Who alone does great wonders” (Ps. 136:4). Just so, the Jewish People are alone, set apart from all the nations, as it says (Lev. 20:26), “I have separated you from the nations,” and, “It is a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:9).

    A people alone meir Kahane