Thursday, 21 January 2010

Deafening silence

There's an interesting and controversial Church in Wales- related post at Cramner today
I have long since lost any interest in the views of individual C in W prelates, and it sticks in my throat more than somewhat to spring to their defence after the way we have been treated, but it wouldn't be fair for me to comment critically here, as it would seem, in this particular case anyway, that the use of the word "Palestine"  by the Bishop of Monmouth is innocuous, non-political  and  employed in a purely geographical, if anachronistic, context. Doesn't Betjeman use the same term for the Holy Land in his poem, "Christmas," albeit simply in order to find a word which rhymes with "wine?" Perhaps, then,  this was a literary allusion.
Yet it does show just how careful those in the public eye have to be be in today's highly charged and politicised world where all kinds of sensitivities are so easily offended.
Having said that, there does certainly seem to be  - how can we say - a certain uncritical pro-Palestinian bias in Anglican Communion public statements generally, perhaps merely reflecting the current anti-Jewish(certainly anti-Israel) prejudice in left-leaning and academic circles generally in the Anglo-Saxon world. As we know to our cost, the ability to maintain a discreet and intelligent distance from the surrounding culture has never been an Anglican virtue. On the other hand, there is an Anglican ecclesial presence on the ground in the Palestinian territories, and so legitimate and deeply felt outrage at long-standing and obvious injustice can sometimes blind people to the other side of the question, or lead to comments which might easily (and validly?) be construed as unwarrantedly biased. Even so, Israeli lives are also of infinite value to God, and one injustice or act of violence should never be used by Christians to justify another. But, ironically, in the liberal world-view some religious traditions and some ethnic  minorities are more worthy of respect than others.
But there is also a deafening silence from western politicians, and most prominent churchmen, too, on the often desperate situation of Christian minorities within predominantly Muslim populations; one thinks particularly of the plight of the Copts in Egypt and the various Christian minorities in Turkey. In the secularised west, perceptions of "national interest" have long taken precedence over concern for the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The protection of the human rights of Christian minorities in oppressive states throughout the world also seems to be regarded here as somewhat journalistically and politically "unsexy" when compared to those of secular intellectuals or political activists in a similar situation. It was left to William Dalrymple, for example, in his great book 'From the Holy Mountain' to highlight the predicament of Christians throughout the middle east, in many cases persecuted by a resurgent and fundamentalist Islam, and caught in the middle in the conflict between U.S. backed Israel and the surrounding Arab states. As Dalrymple points out, everyone wants to re-write history in their favour and is prepared to go to almost any lengths in order to do it.
It is, though, somewhat ironic that militant Islam regards the West as "Christian" - I'm afraid that's not true in any sense whatsoever!

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