What is really more important, freedom of speech or the Word of God? Who is committed to the Word of God in the media and who is not? Clear protests could be heard from Jerusalem and Israel, the Jewish voice was loud. But no condemnation was heard from the Western world, from the Christian governments and peoples. Is freedom of speech more sacred to them than the Bible? This and much more screams out from the spectacle in Sweden.
Technically, the Swedish police have approved an act of protest in which a Torah and Bible would be burned. Ahmed Alloush had said he would set fire to a book containing the Holy Scriptures of Jews and Christians in front of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm. The police approved the request because in Sweden everyone enjoys the same freedom of expression, regardless of their race, religion or gender. The Muslim who made the request said it was a reaction to the burning of the Koran by an Iraqi migrant outside a mosque in Stockholm last month. But ultimately, Alloush canceled his Bible burning and emphasized that he only wanted to test whether freedom of expression in Sweden was the same for everyone.
In Israel, Sweden’s decision to allow the Bible to be burned has been heavily criticized. As Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said:
“I unequivocally condemn the permission granted in Sweden to burn holy books. As the President of Israel, I condemned the burning of the Quran, sacred to Muslims world over, and I am now heartbroken that the same fate awaits a Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people. Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression, it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate.”
Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression, it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate. The whole world must join together in condemning unequivocally this repulsive act.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) July 14, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted:
“The State of Israel takes this shameful decision, which harms the Holy of Holies of the Jewish people, very seriously.”
אני מגנה בתוקף את החלטת הרשויות בשבדיה לאפשר שריפת ספר תנ״ך מול שגרירות ישראל במדינה. מדינת ישראל רואה בחומרה רבה את ההחלטה המבישה הזאת שפוגעת בקודש הקודשים של העם היהודי. יש לכבד את הספרים המקודשים לכל הדתות.
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) July 14, 2023
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also called on the Swedish government to prevent the Bible burning. In addition, a number of rabbis in the country have condemned the stunt.
But other than that, there was no criticism or condemnation to be heard. The Christian nations were silent. I have not heard any loud and official condemnation from the Vatican, either. Where were the Church leaders? Does the Bible belong only to the Jews, or is the Christian Bible a different book than the Jewish Bible? Or did the Christian people not feel addressed because the Muslim petitioner spoke of burning the Torah and Bible in front of the Israeli embassy in Stockholm?
Isn’t that also their holy book, even if the Muslim only wanted to burn the Torah or the “Old Testament,” but not the New Testament? So is “Christian” Europe of the opinion that the gospels and the good news of Jesus should not also be burned? I think Europe doesn’t give a damn whether a Bible is burned. From their point of view, the Word of God does not need to be defended, and certainly should not impede freedom of speech. It became very clear which nation alone truly appreciates God’s Word and seeks to live it. Again and again, history has shown Israel to be the one nation that “contends with God,” as the Bible speaks of Jacob’s confrontation with the Lord, during which his name became Israel.
As I read the numerous Google headlines on the subject, all Israeli newspapers were vociferous in criticizing the Bible burning. None of the commentators, journalists, editors even asked themselves why none of their European colleagues spoke out against it. The politicians in Israel are Jews, but not religious people, and yet they have defended God’s Word. I would have expected that from at least some politicians in Europe. I’m sure there are some, but I didn’t hear their voices. In Europe, free speech is more sacred than the Bible. Everyone can think, believe and say whatever they want. There are borders everywhere, territorial borders between countries, borders in life, borders on the road, borders everywhere. But freedom of expression must not be limited?
Freedom of expression is a human right and is guaranteed in the constitutions of various nations as a fundamental right against state authority. Of course, there are limits to free expression, such as inciting discrimination, hate, violence or consciously excluding a group in our society. The Bible, even if one does not want to believe in it as God’s living Word, is still the basis of love, charity and a healthy society that shaped the Western/Christian nations.
In Israel we are in a conflict between freedom of speech and God’s Word. The whole spectacle of the current government’s controversial judicial reform is about different worldviews among the Israeli population. The coalition wants to reform the Israeli legal system to give more weight to Jewish and biblical values. The opposition rejects this and demands more freedom of expression and liberal democracy. Whether that’s really true is another question, but that’s how people perceive the situation. It is not only a political conflict between people, but also a spiritual conflict. And I learned one thing: As long as there is a spiritual conflict within us or within the nation, we are on the right path. God is involved. God is involved in politics. God is in our life. And that is why a clear protest against the planned burning of the Bible could be heard from Jerusalem. And just as the Western/Christian nations did not stand up for the Bible in Stockholm, so these same nations will never stand up for “God’s chosen”–Israel.
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