Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians are growing increasingly frustrated by the Western “Christian” world’s exaggerated focus on Gaza, while it all but ignores the forced conversion, execution and exile of Iraq’s ancient Christian community.
A group of some 200 Christians from across northern Israel on Sunday gathered in Haifa in solidarity with the Christians of Iraq, and in support of Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza. Most of these Christians belong to a group advocating local Christian enlistment in the Israeli army.
The Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum has for years been encouraging young local Christians, particularly in the Nazareth area, to integrate with Israeli Jewish society, and to volunteer for IDF service as the first step toward achieving that goal.
Finally, after centuries of living under Muslim intimidation, the Christians of the Holy Land are free to fully identify and worship as Christians, and in so doing have increasingly realized their ancient connection to the Jews and Israel, the leaders of the Forum often argue.
Sadly, the vast majority of Christians in the Middle East still live in fear and as second-class citizens to their Muslim overlords.
Nowhere is that more true than in the parts of Iraq conquered by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS). As a leading Iraqi Christian leader recently noted, the city of Mosul (ancient Nineveh) is empty of Christians for the first time in 2,000 years after the Islamic State demanded they all either convert, pay the infidel tax or face the sword.
“Israeli citizens - Christians and Jews - stand shoulder-to-shoulder and scream to a world that sees fit to ignore the genocide carried out against Christians in the Arab world,” wrote one of the Forum members following Sunday’s demonstration.
“Israel is on the front line against a terrorist threat that could drown the whole world,” the statement continued, insisting that “a strong Israel means peace for Christians, Jews, Arabs and Druze alike.”
Jonathan Elkhoury, the son of an officer in the South Lebanon Army that allied with Israel during its years in Lebanon, directly called out the hypocrisy of the international community in an address he was supposed to make to the demonstrators, but later posted to Facebook.
“Our standing here tonight is a cry to the world that stands by and ignores ethnic cleansing carried out against Christians in the Arab world by terrorists and radical Islamists,” wrote Elkhoury. “Where is the international community…? They are busy condemning Israel for defending its citizens against those terrorist organizations.”
In an earlier open letter, Elkhoury, now a proud Israeli citizen, urged his Jewish countrymen to “keep up the fight, because as long as you are here in Israel, I (as a Christian) continue to exist and live. I see the slaughter of Christians in Arab countries just because they are Christians and my heart is crying, but it makes me appreciate even more that I came to Israel.”
The Forum’s spiritual leader, Father Gabriel Naddaf, publicly thanked the Israeli army for protecting Christians and all the citizens of Israel from the fate currently being suffered by the Christians of Iraq. He has also been calling on the Western world to similarly intervene militarily to end the slaughter and persecution perpetrated by the Islamic State.