Pope Benedicts visit to Israel this week has increased media attention on the plight of Christians in the Middle East and their declining numbers. But while the visit should serve as an opportunity for an honest look at Christian flight, one reporter blamed Israel and the West instead.
In an article describing Christian apprehensions over Pope Benedicts visit, Time magazines Andrew Lee Butters calls the presence of Christians in the region a reminder of the multi-sectarian and tolerant history of Arab and Islamic culture. However, this tolerance is threatened, he writes, from the rise of religious extremism.
At this point, one would assume Butters would delve into largely overlooked issues such as
2) creeping fundamentalism,
3) the intimidation of Christian media
4) forced conversions
5) Christians frozen out of the Palestinian national dialogue.
But instead, Butters points his finger in the opposite direction: Clash-of-civilizations pundits and Western leaders like the Pope often ignore how the West helped spark such intolerance, especially through its one-sided support of Israel.
Butters would be hard pressed to prove that Europe has been one-sided in its support for Israel. More importantly, however, Butters statement implies that Muslims are not responsible for their actions because the West backs Israels right to exist in peace with its neighbors. In fact, Butters goes even further, calling Israels creation a disaster for Christians in the Middle East.
Blaming Israel for the civil war in Lebanon ignores the complex political arrangements in Lebanon at the time and the destabilizing effect of the PLO inside Lebanons borders. He also neglects to mention what might be strangling the life out of the 2,000 Christians living in Gaza. But Butters doesnt stop there. He also holds Israel responsible for Muslim abuses of Christians in Egypt:
According to Butters, therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood isnt ultimately responsible for small-scale terror against the Christians it carries out. Its really Israels presence in the Palestinian territories that is behind it all.
The BBCs Tim Franks also covered the decline of Arab Christians in Bethlehem. In his article, Franks quoted several Palestinians who claim that Christians are leaving the city because of Israels security barrier. However, Franks also acknowledges that there could be another reason for the exodus.
Indeed, Franks admission is consistent with finding from Justus Reid Weiner, who has researched the plight of Christians in the Palestinian territories extensively. According to Weiner, Arab Christians rarely speak about their situation in public:
The media has on obligation to report the truth. Insist that reporters tell the whole story when they cover the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
Write to Time magazine at email@example.com
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