Thank God for Lucy Winkett and St James's 'Apartheid Wall'
There has been alarming confusion, jaw-dropping consternation and vehement condemnation of the 'Apartheid Wall' which has been erected in front of St James's Church, Piccadilly. It is part of 'Bethlehem Unwrapped', which encourages us to look beyond 'O little town of Bethlehem' to "the Barrier that affects every aspect of daily life". The church explains:
The wall in our courtyard is a replica segment of the wall that surrounds Bethlehem. It is 8 metres tall because the real wall is 8 metres. It obscures the view of this historic church because that is what has happened to Bethlehem’s holy sites and historic places.All net proceeds of the 'Bethlehem Unwrapped' festival are being donated to Amos Trust’s ‘Future Peacemakers’ Appeal, supporting the work of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem. The organisers of emphasise their neutrality, and urge others to do the same:
In 2009, Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a joint appeal to Christians throughout the world to understand and help to alleviate the desperate hardship the wall has caused. It is a daily disaster for ordinary Palestinian families.
In hosting this festival, St James’s Church joins the movement in Bethlehem known as “beautiful resistance”, celebrating the culture, music, food and humour of those who live behind the Wall. St James’s stands in solidarity with the universal call for a just and sustainable solution for both Palestinians and Israelis.
The stated aim of the wall at its inception in 2002 was to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism. St James’s Church opposes all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and supports the right of the State of Israel to exist with secure internationally recognised borders.
This wall is symbolic of walls all over the world that divide and confine peoples, restricting free movement and dominating the imagination of those who live behind them. We believe that bridges not walls are the only lasting foundation for peace. On Sunday 5 January, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Wall installation will itself become a bridge accompanied by music and dance. We join with people of all faiths in praying for the day when the Wall will come down.
“The most unhelpful thing you can do is be pro one side; it just adds to the conflict. We have to not only understand those people who are oppressing us, but try to walk in their shoes, and ultimately to really engage with what it means to love our enemies.”His Grace thinks this is all quite marvellous. Honestly, he doesn't know what the fuss is about. The Rev'd Giles Fraser has heeded the exhortation to be neutral:
I know the familiar joke about the Anglican church sitting on the fence so much that it has splinters in its bum, but I admire the fact that places like St James's in Piccadilly are prepared to speak about the multiple injustices created by the wall without succumbing to some nonsense about whose side are you on. That's cheap sloganeering politics, too concerned with maintaining the purity of its own outrage.But Melanie Phillips has condemned the festival as a "vicious stunt" which "incites hatred against Israel, spreads further stain of revived Jew-hatred in CofE". She writes in an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Although the church acknowledges in passing that the original purpose of this ‘wall’ was ‘to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism’, it suggests instead that its only result has been to oppress and harass innocent Palestinians. The inevitable effect of this wholly mendacious and malevolent travesty will be to incite hatred against Israel and all who support its defence against the war of extermination being perpetrated against it.You see what happened there? That nice Guardian-reading (and contributing) Giles Fraser is doing what that nice Rector Lucy Winkett wanted - not taking sides. But that nasty Daily Mail-reading (and contributing) Melanie Phillips is doing exactly what she was asked not to do - being pro one side (and, incidentally, the wrong one), which, we were told, "just adds to the conflict".
She really ought to take up the violin or something, like that nice Mr Nigel Kennedy. The mellifluous melodies would sweeten her sour features and soothe her troubled spirit. She should be grateful - as should we all - for the nice Rector Lucy Winkett and all at St James's Church, Piccadilly, for highlighting this Christmas the appalling suffering of Palestinians behind Israel's 'Apartheid Wall' (as that nice Mr Kennedy terms it). The suffering of Palestinian Christians is especially harrowing, and, but for Lucy Winkett's 'separation wall', thousands would know nothing of their terrible plight.
Everyday life in Bethlehem and large parts of Judaea-Samaria is a daily siege. Palestinian protection rackets are rife, with $10,000s being extracted by Muslims from the dhimmi Christians, on pain of death and destruction of their property. The owner of the region's only Christian bookstore was recently abducted and murdered; Christian shops and schools are regularly firebombed; zealous Muslims picket colleges to intimidate Christian students into reading and studying the Qur'an. Others place their prayer rugs provocatively in Manger Square to intimidate pilgrims with a mighty show of Islam. There are regular beatings of Christians, and Muslim gangs routinely seize Christian-owned land while the security forces just stand by and watch.
The Christian population of Bethlehem - one of the oldest in the world - is dwindling. In 1947, Christians accounted for 85 per cent of the population. By 1998, their number was around 40 per cent. Today, Christians make up less than 20 per cent of the town. Those that dare to remain risk being taken hostage - including priests and nuns. Bibles are destroyed, churches set on fire and their coffers emptied. The former mayor of Bethlehem Hanna Nasser said bluntly, “There is no future for Christians.”
But none of this is due to Israel's 'Apartheid Wall': this is daily life for Christians under the Palestinian Authority.
The Western media usually ignore the plight of Christians under the PA: the focus is unrelentingly on the denunciation of Israel’s 'Apartheid Wall'.
But Christians are fleeing from Bethlehem for their lives: it is an exodus of biblical proportions.
And we must thank God that Rector Lucy Winkett and St James's Church, Piccadilly, have prophetically given the opportunity for His Grace to share with his readers that Palestinian Muslim terrorists have turned Bethlehem into a safe haven for suicide bombers. They desecrate Manger Square with their 'Allahu Akbars' and defile the Church of the Nativity with their murderous jihad against innocent Christians.
Certainly, we in the West must approach such matters with humility, for we are profoundly ignorant. But, for His Grace, it is not possible to be 'neutral' or pro any of this and still be Christian.