Sometimes its not what a person or organization says but what it doesn’t say that speaks volumes about its priorities and ideology. Dexter Van Zile of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) points out that the World Council of Churches, normally so vocal about violence in the Middle East (especially when it can point fingers at Israel) has been completely silent about the slaughter of thousands of people in Syria. He writes:
The World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization that seeks to unite Christianity and offer prophetic words of peace and justice on behalf of almost 350 denominations worldwide, has said almost nothing about the brutal crackdown by the Assad regime in Syria.
A visit to the organization’s front page on August 3, 2011 and a review of the organization’s news archive indicates that the violence in Syria has not made it onto the organization’s radar. The organization has simply been a bystander to this violence.
The only place one can see any reference to the brutal crackdown is on the WCC’s “twitter” feed where it has offered a couple of “tweets” about the violence which has cost 2,000 people their lives. The tweets do not condemn the Assad regime for the violence, but merely offer prayers for peace. This is odd given that the WCC has routinely condemned Israel for its efforts to defend itself against Palestinian rockets. A search for the word “Gaza” on the WCC’s website reveals the extent to which it has focused its condemnations on Israel. In fact, the WCC’s Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) has a website devoted to highlighting the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
The Assad regime is murdering its own citizens on a regular basis and the WCC has said virtually nothing.
It’s not as if the WCC has been silent about world events over the past few months.
Since the violence began in Syria, the WCC has, among other things, issued a call for NATO withdraw nuclear weapons from Europe, drawn attention to the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, issued a statement about the fighting in Libya, lamented violence inSudan, called for an end to the food blockade of North Korea and lamented the attack in Norway.
It has only been silent about events in Syria.
It’s not as if the WCC is completely unfamiliar with what’s going on in Syria or the workings of the Assad regime – about which it has said nice things in the past.
It makes one wonder whether Assad has dirt on WCC officers or employees. Actually, according to Van Zile, it’s because of the status of Christians in Syria:
The WCC’s failure to condemn the Assad regime is related to one crucial fact: WCC member churches located in Syria rely on the Assad regime to keep them safe from Muslim extremists in that country.
This reality is one of the keys to understand the WCC’s notoriously lopsided witness about the Middle East. While the organization routinely condemns Israel (and the United States) for their actions, the WCC is reluctant to condemn authoritarian regimes in the Middle East for their misdeeds for fear of putting Christians in danger.
Given what’s at stake – the safety of Christians in the Middle East – it is uncharitable to condemn the WCC too harshly for making this calculation, but the next time the WCC assails Israel for its policies, it seems right to ask why the organization has been so vocal and focused in its condemnations of Israel and so obsequious in its dealings with the Assad regime. If this were the Gaza Strip, the PIEF would have another link to put on its page.
This is certainly true, though it doesn’t answer the question of why the WCC has been so reluctant to criticize loathsome regimes where the protection of Christians is not a consideration. For instance, North Korea (where there are probably fewer than 20,000 Christians, virtually all of whom are deep underground) and Saudi Arabia (where there are none except guest workers, who have no religious freedoms anyway), two of the most oppressive countries on the planet, rarely if ever feel the sting of WCC criticism. Israel, on the other hand, is subject to more scrutiny for its treatment of the Palestinians than pretty much all other nations put together.
I agree that protecting Christians is part of the WCC’s agenda. But that doesn’t by itself explain the overwhelming obsession of the WCC with the Jewish state as opposed to any other human rights violator.
Oh, wait. Did I say Jewish state? Could that have something to do with it?
Could be. But that’s a side issue for the moment. The real issue is, when is the WCC going to speak up for the rights of the Syrian people, and especially for the right to not be shot down in the streets by a tyrannical regime? Christians, after all, are among those being killed.