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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lords debate: Situation of Christians in the Middle East



An interesting debate took place in the House of Lords yesterday. Opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, he drew this tribute from Lord Mackay of Clashfern: "My Lords, I would like very warmly to thank the most reverend Primate for the opportunity of having this debate in your Lordships' House, and for the scholarly and profound speech with which the debate has been opened." Well deserved praise echoed by subsequent speakers, often in short supply outside the House.

Speaking in the debate (at 12.23) Lord Sacks' contribution was also praised by many speakers. He felt as a Jew in Christian Britain that he could not be silent. He quoted Martin Luther King saying, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends". Lord Touhig quoted his late old friend Leo Abse who, on his retirement as an MP, gave only one piece of advice to his successor. He said, "Tolerate everyone, tolerate everything but never tolerate the intolerant". 

Replying, Lord Howell of Guildford said, "This has been a hugely enlightening debate, unlocking the vast stores of wisdom that are to be found in your Lordships' House on the issues that we are addressing, on the history behind them-the hinterland of knowledge-and on the prospects for the present and the future in a very turbulent world. We have had some excellent speeches." The speeches clear up many misunderstandings about Christians in the Middle East and are well worth the time reading or listening to them. I particularly liked this aside from the Archbishop of Canterbury: "A Palestinian Christian friend of mine was wont to say when asked by westerners, 'When did your family become Christians?'  'About 2,000 years ago' was the reply." 

In his contribution to the debate, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon quoted his mother saying: "The Abrahamic faiths are that Judaism lays the foundations, Christianity builds the walls and Islam is the roof. We all have the same origin and the same destination. Together we build a single house of worship". The reality is different. Mosques are demanded while other places of worship are destroyed. The plight of Coptic Christians is well documented. One of their priests gives a clear insight into their problems here. Translating their situation to Great Britain, the "silence of our friends" is contributing to the demise of Christianity while Islam is in the ascendency. The suggestion that Islam is the roof is used to claim that Muhammad was the last in a line of Jewish prophets of which Jesus was just another,
 raising the prophet above the Son of God. That is unacceptable to Christians. Leo Abse's advice "never tolerate the intolerant" is particularly apt.

There is a video link to the debate here. Highly recommended.

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