The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) was established as a charitable organization, in 1924 by Monsignor Richard Barry-Doyle and in 1926 by Pope Pius XI, to help Catholics in the Near East and Asia, including victims of the September 1922 Armenian Genocide. The tragic Turkish/Islamic massacres and atrocities against the 1.5 million Greek and Armenian population was followed by the Great Fire of Smyrna, which then completely destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters of the Greek city, located on the Aegean coast of Anatolia/Turkey.
Barry-Doyle’s entreaties for generous donations for his humanitarian work with orphans in Asia Minor, Asian Turkey and the Anatolian peninsula included heart-wrenching, detailed accounts of Muslim savagery used against Christians. Given that history, one would assume that today’s CNEWA members would continue to tell its readers the truth of the perilous Christian experience in most of the Middle East, and the one exception where they are safe and thriving, but that is not the case.
CNEWA recently reported in the “Middle East Christians on the Move” about the recent shift of the Christian population throughout the Middle East, basing its figures on information from the Holy See, regional church officials, the CIA World Factbook, World Bank, the UN and the US Census Bureau. The reasons given for the population upheaval were the war in Syria, the terrorism of ISIS, and the general turmoil caused by the totalitarian regimes.
Unpardonably, the papal agency failed to cite the only Middle East country where the population of indigenous Christians has increased since 1948 – Israel. Rather, the association alleges that Israel’s Christian population declined by half since the 1940s, a vague date that would suggest reasons of Israel’s War of Independence, discontent, or insecurity. However, there are more Christians living in Israel today (170,000) than there were before Israel’s statehood (130,000); Christians are flourishing under Israeli sovereignty. The report also gave the year of flight of 50,000 Christians from Iraq as 2014, when the truth is more than a million Christians were driven out with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
CNEWA divides the Middle East into two categories, using “Major Decline” to describe Iraq and Syria, and “In Flux” for Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and “Palestine.” Despite CNEWA’s partiality, Jordan’s 19-year designation of “West Bank” for Judea and Samaria and Gaza do not constitute a “Palestine,” and the separate listing of Jerusalem from Israel is in keeping with the Vatican’s violations of Jewish human rights and its desire to control Jewish archaeology and holy sites. The terminology also suggests that the six entities are designated “In Flux” due to a troubled regime, insecurities and war, which does not apply to Israel with its robust economy, and its inexplicably large impact and disproportionate contributions to the world. Yet, with such a dishonest designation, the association intimates that the future of Christians is as perilous in Israel as in the Islamic states.
The truth has been distorted to make their assertion. Israel’s indigenous Christian population increased by almost 300 percent in Israel since 1948, enjoy a higher level of education than do Israel’s Jews, are unlikely to leave, and are not “in flux.” Yet, CNEWA’s report puts the Christians at a small minority, 170,000 people, a 2.4 percent of the population.
The report fails to mention that of the 34,000 Christians in 1948, the majority were Arab Christians, who now number 130,000, an increase of 282 percent, but are excluded from the equation. That skews the true numbers. The data’s poor presentation and omissions appear to be intentionally tailored for a dishonest anti-Israel agenda.
The result of this misreporting has its ramifications:
- The agency’s ethics come into question for using fallacious and derogatory propaganda about Israel to raise funds.
- Despite the evidence that Christians are prospering in Israel, Israel is being unfairly vilified and categorized with Islamic countries (Syria, Egypt, Iraq), where churches are burned to the ground and Christians are slaughtered en masse by jihadis.
- CNEWA is concealing the actual statistics about the horrific fate of Christians in Islamic countries, further endangering the remaining religious minorities by not bringing the truth of their plight to the world’s attention.
It is time for Msgr. John E. Kozar, secretary, and Michael JL Le Civita, director of communications, of Catholic Near East Welfare Association ([email protected]), and trustees Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Treasurer and Archbishop of New York ([email protected]), Mr. Rev. Terrence T. Prendergast, SJ., Archbishop of Ottawa ([email protected]), and Most Rev. J. Michael Miller, CSB, Archbishop of Vancouver (http://rcav.org/contact-the-archbishop/), to make the necessary adjustments to the reports and provide the public with the unvarnished truth. An apology and corrections would be honorable. I look forward to their positive replies.