What has come to light over the recent nomination and subsequent dismissal of Warsaw’s appointed archbishop, Stanislaw Wielgus (pictured far left), highlights an issue I have periodically written about concerning the “trustworthiness” of religious leaders within totalitarian regimes.
Whether they resided in the former Soviet Union and Communist Poland, or presently in Castro’s Cuba and in the Palestinian Authority, the religious leadership were then, and still are, controlled arms of the regime apparatus.
The Palestinian Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem, Munib Jounan, (pictured right, and who speaks fluent Finnish) has been a major instigator in disseminating characterizations of both Israel and the conflict, that usually lack any proper context at all. His annual messages published here in Finland, contain all the familar propaganda terminology used by the P.A. and Hamas. He “educates” Finnish volunteers who enlist themselves in the EAPPI program, visiting Israel and the P.A. territories for a period of a year or so.
In a recent letter to the archbishop of Finland, Jukka Paarma, I wrote:
I am just wondering if you have been following the recent news coming from the Christian sectors of the Palestinian Authority, as well as from the Israeli city of Nazareth? Once more a discouraging picture is emerging of intimidation and persecution of the Arab Christians at the hands of Muslims, who are increasingly exerting their militancy towards this minority in their midst.
More and more the local Christian leadership’s/Palestinian civil authority’s version of events within the PA are being very hard to validate, as Islamist intimidation and persecution continues to be the main cause for the continued exodus of Christian Arabs. Please correct me if I am wrong, but when has there been any regular mention of this tragedy (at the hands of an increasingly exertive Muslim majority) within the pages of the Church, or in public speaking? I suggest that someone from your office contact Professor Justus Reid Weiner, he is THE expert on this tragic phenomenon.
This is a situation that cries out for far more attention than it has been given. As in the period during the height of Soviet rule, (as painful as it is to be reminded) the religious leadership could not be trusted to deliver the entire truth of their church members welfare. The same can be said of the present situation within the PA administered areas as well as in Cuba.
His response was however predictable,
“We in our church have quite good sources to get information from Middle East areas because of our own pastors and coworkers at place and information links between Christian churches in Arab lands, Israel and Finland. Of course all sources of LWF and WCC are known by us, too.”
In other words, the Finnish Lutheran Church will continue to view their propagandizing bishop, Munib Younan and other similar voices, as trusted sources regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.
An Excerpt from the CSW report on Cuba:
“Some pastors reported that they were pressured by government officials to expel members of their churches involved in pro-democracy or human rights activism. At least one pastor in central Cuba was visited by local officials who warned him and his wife that they should bar certain members of their congregation because of their involvement in “counter-revolutionary” activities, even though these activities were in no way related to the activities of the church.
Two non-Cuban Roman Catholic priests were reportedly told their visas would not be renewed after they ignored “advice” from local officials to cease contact with local Christian human rights activists. A number of pastors also reported that while they had not received explicit warnings from officials, they did feel pressured to ask members of their churches who were involved in pro-democracy or human rights activism to distance themselves from the congregation.”
Whether through ideological sympathies, coercion or of fear for the safety of their followers, many religious leaders will fall prey to the will and demands of an oppresive political system. Not everything they say can be trusted as being trustworthy, and the disgraced Polish ex-archbishop should serve as a stark reminder of this fundamental truth. *L* KGS