By JEREMY SHARON, JPOST—
President Reuven Rivlin addressed the massed ranks of delegates to the 35th annual Feast of Tabernacles event at the Jerusalem Payis Arena on Monday night, and thanked them for their support of the Jewish state, saying that the connection of Zionism to the Christian community had “deep historical roots.”
“Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your consistent trust and support,” he said. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a pro-Israel Evangelical organization, organized the five-day event, which brought more than 5,000 delegates from 80 countries to the capital.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder spoke at the event, and said the international community is ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and that entire communities had been wiped out.
Lauder and ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler have written a letter to world leaders calling on them to speak out against the persecution in recent years of Christian communities in the region. “We as Jews know how important it is to speak out. In the 1930s in Germany when Jews were deprived of their rights and persecuted the world was silent. We know what happens when the world is silent, so today we are standing up and speaking out,” Lauder said.
He decried global silence on the fate of Christians in the Middle East, and accused the UN of failing to bring attention to the issue while frequently condemning Israel, for example during the recent conflict in Gaza. The letter decried “the frightening situation facing Christian minorities in Muslim countries,” and said that the “executions, persecution and uprooting of ancient Christian communities is an ongoing tragedy,” ignored by world leaders.
Speaking at a press conference earlier on Monday was Canon Andrew White, who has lived and worked with Christians in Iraq since 1998 and who last week was forced to leave the country due to the threat of kidnapping by the Islamic State terrorist militia.
White thanked Lauder and the ICEJ for their efforts in speaking out against the persecution of Christians, but said words were not enough to help alleviate the situation. “Today we see the Jewish community standing with the beleaguered, harassed, murdered and massacred Christians of the Middle East,” said White.
“I used to have congregation of 6,500 people, but there are now more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than in Iraq,” he continued. White has been nicknamed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” for his leadership role in the Christian community in Iraq over the last 16 years.
He said that his church has been reduced to 200 members by the flight of Christians from Baghdad due to the violence in the city in recent years. “All the letters in the world do not feed or protect our people, or give them shelter or protection… Our people are being killed and massacred, ISIS are there on the doorstep…
The UN is useless, they have done nothing for us whatsoever,” he said. White called for the US to commit ground troops to the war against Islamic State, calling the air campaign ineffective and a waste of time. The vicar was pessimistic about the prospects for the Christian communities of Iraq, Syria and the broader region, saying that he did not see a future for Christians in the Middle East.
White left Iraq eight days ago. He said that the Church of England and the British government told him it was too dangerous for him to be in the country and that he was at risk of being kidnapped and ransomed by Islamic State.