“We Jews have a responsibility to proactively denounce radical political Islam that beheads Christians and drives people of other religions out of their ancestral Middle East homelands.”
By Cindy Mindell
WOODBRIDGE – Dr. Moses Stambler is a professor emeritus in the Department of Social Work at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven. Dr. Leah Stambler is professor emerita in the Department of Education and Educational Psychology at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in Danbury.
As students and educators, each has engaged in decades of intensive study of Islam and Christianity, and has published extensively in their respective fields.
With escalating violence against Christian communities in the Middle East, the husband-and-wife academics have been following the fate of this persecuted religious minority and the efforts in the U.S. to bring awareness and action in response.
The two spoke with the Ledger about the fate of Christian communities today and why Jews should be concerned and involved. The interview is a compilation of their respective views.
Q: Why do we need to be concerned about Christian communities in the Middle East?
A: According to Michael Curtis, writing on AmericanThinker.com [“Christians are Disappearing in the Middle East”], “Christians have long suffered discrimination, violence, persecution, and deportation in all Middle Eastern countries, and this continues today in all countries of the area except Israel.”
This past September, Fr. Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, Israel, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. He indicated that the Christian population of the Middle East has declined from 20 percent at the start of the 20th century to approximately four percent today, citing that some 100,000 Christians are murdered every year. He said that Israel is the “only safe place where Christians are not persecuted” in the region.
The Christians are in jeopardy in terms of their lives because of being made to feel the “other” within that portion of the Muslim community that rejects the presence of “infidels.” Between April 12 and May 10, at least 2,500 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists throughout the world, according to the watchdog website, TheReligionofPeace.com.
A plethora of prominent world leaders have analyzed the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as having genocidal characteristics. Their comments are unanimous in decrying the potential extinction of Christianity in the Middle East.
Q: What can be done to help the Christian communities in the Middle East?
A: Cal Thomas compares Christian and Jewish responses to persecution in an online article on Nov. 5, 2014: “American Christians have been slow to the point of near silence when it comes to speaking out about the atrocities committed against their fellow believers by the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS). The Jewish people are much better models in solidarity when Jews are persecuted.”
There have been significant responses to the persecution of Christians by various groups in the U.S. Last August, the Orthodox Christian Network’s website listed eight ways to help victims of Christian genocide. In February, the Washington Post reported that protestors in orange jumpsuits gathered near the White House chanting, “Obama, Obama, did you see? Christian blood in the sea.” In April, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition based in Washington, D.C. and lead pastor of the Church on the Hill, helped initiate the Orange Ribbon Campaign. Rev. Frank Karwacki of Pennsylvania’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Mount Carmel, Pa., has encouraged members of his congregation to wear orange ribbons or dress in orange in memory of the massacred Christians, beheaded after being forced to wear orange jumpsuits. On April 19, Fox News reported, “Mass movement: U.S. Christians don orange in church to honor ISIS victims.”
Ribbons for Rescue, a lay organization, has sponsored rallies in New Hampshire and Greater Boston to “raise awareness to the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide.” Lydia O’Leary of Ribbons for Rescue is calling for people to help, get involved, and wear orange daily. More than a dozen churches have responded to the campaign in New Hampshire. Orange Ribbon campaigns have also been organized at regional rallies in Boston.
Ribbons for Rescue is sponsoring a 30-day Orange Action Challenge, asking participants to engage in a variety of activities to demonstrate their support for Christians in the Middle East who are and have been persecuted by losing their ancestral homes, their livelihood, and their lives.
Q: Why should Jews get involved in the campaign?
A: Rabbi Sean Gorman of Pride of Israel Synagogue in Toronto, writing in his blog, has called for Jews to wear orange. He noted, “The reason is that the lovable folks from ISIS are forcing Christians to wear orange as they walk to their executions. It is no different from the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Shoah.”
As victims of a previously silent world during the Shoah, we Jews now have a responsibility and obligation on national and global levels to proactively denounce totalitarian, radical political Islam that beheads Christians and drives people of other religions out of their ancestral Middle East homelands. Rapidly moving events dictate that the time has come to move beyond repeating traditional knowledge, description, and analysis about antisemitism to the next level of prescription by symbolic, virtual, and realistic action responses to beheadings, massacres, and the killing fields facing our Christian brethren because of their religion. Members of the Jewish community should visibly and actively express sympathy and identification with Christians, who have been slain or persecuted by totalitarian, radical political Islamist terror groups, in these early stages of their genocidal acts, by our wearing orange ribbons and/or orange garments at synagogue services. We must publicly condemn the beheading and slaughtering of Christians.
As Elie Wiesel has cautioned, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
For additional information: Genocide Watch: genocidewatch.org, Ribbons for Rescue: ribbonsforrescue.com, Rescue Christians: rescuechristians.org, James Foley Legacy Foundation: jamesfoleyfoundation.org.