Priest to UN: Israel is ‘Only Safe Place’ for Christians in Middle East

Lauretta Brown | November 3, 2014 | 5:01pm EST
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Fr. Gabriel Naddaf (left), an Israeli-Arab Greek Orthodox priest, defends Israel at United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. (Screenshot)

( – “The Jewish state is the only safe place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety,” Fr. Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Israel, told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in September.

“The earth of the Middle East is soaked with the blood of Christians being killed daily,” Naddaf said in testimony released Wednesday by the non-governmental organization, UN Watch.

The priest pointed to the grim statistic that the Christian population of the Middle East has gone from 20 percent at the start of the 20th century to only around 4 percent today.

“If we look at the Middle East, Mr. President, we realize there’s only one safe place where Christians are not persecuted. One place where they are protected, enjoying freedom of worship and expression, living in peace and not subjected to killing and genocide,” Naddaf said.

“It is Israel, the country I live in. The Jewish state is the only safe place where the Christians of the Holy Land live in safety.”

“Do you know that over the past years some 100,000 Christians have been killed annually?” the priest asked UNHRC members in Geneva. “And why? Not for a crime they’ve committed, but only for believing in Christ.”

Naddaf talked about the dwindling number of Christians in Iraq and Syria, saying that “in Iraq alone, more than 77 percent of the Christians have fled during the year 2000, in addition to thousands killed and expelled.”

Although “some 2 million Christians lived in Syria, but today, they are less than 250,000,” he pointed out.

“Christians in the Middle East are marginalized; their rights denied, their property stolen, their honor violated, their men killed, and their children displaced,” the priest concluded.

“Where will they go? Who will defend them? And who will guard their property?” he asked.

Algemeiner, a Jewish newspaper in the U.S., reports that the Christian population of Israel “has more than quadrupled since its independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012.” It also notes an increase in the number of Christians living in Israel in 2013, citing figures released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

This makes Israel “one of the few Christian communities left in the Middle East that is still growing.”

“Christians and Jews live in Israel not only because Christ was originally Jewish, born in Jewish Bethlehem, but because they share a common destiny, and a true hope to coexist in peace,” Naddaf explained.

“Does the world acknowledge Israel for protecting its Christians? Many in the international community have chosen to criticize Israel,” he complained.

Naddaf called this criticism of Israel “a double crime” because by their criticism, “the international community helps those striving to annihilate the Jews, the Christians, the Druze and the Yazidis for political ends” which, he added, “unfortunately contributes to exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.”

Persecution of Israel “causes Christians to leave the land of Christ searching for a safe haven across the world,” Naddaf pointed out.

“O world leaders and supporters of peace, stop those who want to destroy the only free Jewish state in the region,” the Arab priest pleaded with members of the U.N.

“It is the only refuge welcoming and protecting all of its citizens. It is the only place that does not attempt to push out Christians, forcing them to leave their land in search of security,” he said. “I implore you from the bottom of my heart to hear the cry of the Christians of the Middle East before it is too late, and you may read about them only in the history books.”

Fr. Naddaf heads the Greek Orthodox Church in Yafia near Nazareth. He "was brought to Geneva to testify on the plight of Christian minorities by The Face of Israel, a public diplomacy organization that’s affiliated with the Foreign Ministry,” the Times of Israel reports.

Naddaf is a controversial figure in the Middle East because of his outspoken views on full integration for Israeli Christians. “This land is holy to us too… We live under its protection and we should protect it along with its citizens,” he said in early December, adding that his son wanted to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces.

But two weeks later, the young man was severely beaten and had to be hospitalized.

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