The Peacemaking and International Issues Committee approved (39-6-2) an item today that I would support whole-heartedly. Entitled “On Protecting Christians in the Muslim World,” it simply says:
The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010),through its proper offices singly, or in conjunction with other denominations and faiths, through our appeal to them, to jointly encourage the United Nations to use its valuable influence, and through its diplomatic channels, to exhort the religious and political leaders of Muslim nations to moderate extreme behavior and protect its religious minorities from such harm, and encourage brotherly harmony between each other.
I may not have their faith in the UN to accomplish anything, but the goal is unquestionably worthy. Just yesterday I came across a news item in the Times of India about Christian college professor T.J. Joseph, who was attacked and mutilated by Muslim fanatics in India’s Kerala state:
In a horrific instance of Talibanism, Muslim fanatics in Kerala on Sunday chopped off the right hand of a college lecturer, accusing him of setting a question paper with a derogatory reference to the Prophet.
Lecturer T J Joseph was returning home from church with his mother and sister around 8.30 am in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district when he was accosted by the attackers. “We had just got into our car when a van pulled up in front. Around eight people armed with swords and knives emerged and pulled out Joseph after smashing the windscreen. They then chopped off his right hand and stabbed him in the left thigh,” said Joseph’s sister, Mary Stella, a nun.
So this overture should have been completely non-controversial, right? Not according to the Advisory Committee on Racial Ethnic Concerns, which submitted the following objections to justify its recommendation that the committee disapprove it:
There is no context in this item for the situation of the Christians in Pakistan who have come to represent “The West” where they live. In all the countries mentioned, the U.S. has been at war in the area and any mention of this fact is glaringly absent. Christians have become a proxy representative of “The West” and even of America. The attacks on Christians are also an attack on the American presence and war in their region.
The call from this item only puts the Christian minorities in these countries at greater danger as it underlines the fact that these minorities do indeed have “guardian angels” in the West, which makes them unwelcome members of their own Eastern communities and turns them into outsiders.
This is the same “thinking” that caused the World and National Council of Churches to turn their backs on Christians in the Soviet empire after World War II. We dare not say anything, they claimed, because the Soviets already think Christians are anti-Soviet, so any voiced support for them would endanger them by confirming what the regime already thought. That’s utter nonsense, of course, and was (and is) exercised in a highly selective fashion. For instance, I don’t recall any worries being voiced by any mainline leaders about the response of Afrikaners to Western church support for the black struggle against apartheid. Nor is there any worry about the possible response of the Israeli government to the PCUSA taking the Palestinian side in their conflict.
I’m not sure what term best characterizes the ACREC response to this overture: cowardice, treachery, political correctness, dhimmitude, or simple foolishness. You be the judge.
UPDATE: I almost forgot to mention that the text above was amended in line with a suggestion from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. It now reads:
The Peacemaking and International Issues Committee recommends that the 219th General Assembly (2010), through its proper offices singly, or in conjunction with other denominations and faiths, through our appeal to them, to jointly encourage the United Nations to use its valuable influence, and through its diplomatic channels, to exhort the religious and political leaders of nations with Christian and other religious minorities to moderate extreme behavior and protect its religious minorities from such harm, and encourage mutual respect and forbearance.
So what had been an expression of concern for and call for intervention on behalf of Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations–a particularly apt expression for a Christian assembly, and one that would have addressed what is probably the most prevalent form of persecution based on religion in the world today–has been watered down into a general call that applies to every nation (since every nation has religious minorities of some kind or another). Heaven forbid that any Christian body should say anything that might be construed as in any way critical of the various Muslim dictatorships that blight the world, or any of their extremist citizens that cut the hands off college professors.