In recent days, given the controversy surrounding the taxation of Jerusalem church properties and the public statements issued by Jerusalem’s churches which followed alongside the temporary closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one might think that life is not good for Christians in Israel. However, despite the propaganda issued by the Catholic Church and other interested parties, the Christians in the State of Israel have it better than in the rest of the Middle East and the Islamic world at large. In Israel, Christians enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to vote in democratic elections, which are things that their brethren throughout the Muslim world can only dream of.
If one lives in a region surrounded by tyrannical dictatorships and grave human rights abuses, who cares if there are discussions and proposals that got suspended anyways to have ones businesses taxed and have lands that you already sold to others expatriated? If that is the worst grievance they can come up with, Israel is in pretty good shape. If one has doubts about that, they should ask the Christians who live in the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Bangladesh how life is like for them.
The Christians have been ethnically cleansed from Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. The few Christians who remain have a precarious existence. In Pakistan, a 24-year-old Christian recently jumped from a building after the local authorities tortured him and ordered him to sexually assault his cousin as punishment for blasphemy. Although the Vatican has praised Bangladesh as a safe haven for the Rohingya, the country remains a nightmare for the minorities including the Rohingya Hindus who fled there. At least 90% of the Rohingya population fled to neighboring Bangladesh during a campaign of ethnic cleansing that occurred starting last year, according to data published by the local news agency Irrawady. However, many Rohingya Hindus are not happy living in Bangladesh and according to Indian news sources, they will be among the first to be repatriated to Myanmar. According to some of the Rohingya Hindu refugees, many don’t have a problem returning to Myanmar so long as they are not living near Rohingya Muslims, whom they claim are responsible for the atrocities implemented against the Hindus, both in Myanmar and in the refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya Hindus are not the only unhappy religious minorities in Bangladesh. Not too long ago, a Dhaka church was ransacked; the priest was beaten and threatened with death. In fact, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians claim that under the Sheikh Hasina government, they are gradually being ethnically cleansed from the country. Given this, it is a bit puzzling why the Vatican praised Sheikh Hasina for taking in the Rohingya, when she systematically only takes care of the Muslim Rohingya but persecutes the Hindu Rohingya, just as she does with the other minorities within her country. Nevertheless, while praising a woman who systematically persecutes minorities, the Vatican has recognized the State of Palestine and the Catholic Church in Israel was part of the church charade criticizing Israel over the recent Jerusalem church tax controversy. This is the height of Vatican hypocrisy, which criticizes Israel over every small issue but ignores major human rights abuses in the name of praising a tyrannical ruler, who recently imprisoned the main opposition leader.
However, the Vatican does not represent the Christians here in the Middle East and the Islamic world at large. I am sure that the average Christian living in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Bangladesh would trade their lives for that of the average Christian in Israel in a heartbeat. But one must ponder, how does these measures towards the churches in Jerusalem really affect the life of the average Christian in Israel to the point that church leaders compared Israeli government policy to the Holocaust? The answer is that the average Christian is not affected by these proposed policies. They can still run their businesses, to go to church, to celebrate their holidays, to publish their beliefs, to play Christian music and to live freely as citizens with equal rights in a democratic state. If the proposal is ever discussed again and comes to pass, their leadership who owns most of the property in Jerusalem will just have to pay taxes and if they sell their lands to private buyers without the permission of the tenants, it can be confiscated by the state. Nothing more and nothing less and the average Christian in our region knows this. It is high time for the Vatican to represent the average Christian in our region and to stop promoting hypocritical anti-Semitism, which employs the double standard of praising a tyrant and criticizing a democratically elected government.