This is a column about one of the strangest phenomena I have ever encountered. It is almost the opposite of another strange phenomenon I have written about often, even as it is ignored by the mainstream media-the worldwide persecution of Christians, the majority religion.
I have never understood why the world, or at least major portions of it, would not rise up to condemn and end such persecution. See my column, “The Strange Silence While Christians Suffer Persecution in 45 Nations” (Jan. 2). This column is perhaps the opposite of that strange phenomenon.
It is how five Christian groups are hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, the advocate of genocide, the madman who would like to see the extinction of the United States and Israel, the head of a country that brutally persecutes women, homosexuals and other minorities, and the head of perhaps the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.
How can that possibly be taking place – an act that contradicts every principle of Christianity? How can Christian groups ally themselves with terrorist madmen and genocidal maniacs? The other groups are the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quakers, the World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace, five groups that are part of the “peace movement. I found a partial answer to what at first blush seems inexplicable. Seth Frantzman wrote a piece titled “Gandhi’s Love Letters to Hitler,” for FrontPageMagazine.com (Sept. 19) that attempts to explain the alliance between some religious groups and pure evil.
The incredible phenomena don’t seem so incredible after Mr. Frantzman’s brief history lesson. We start in the 1930s with a pacifist-Nazi alliance. The spokesman for non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, wrote letters to Hitler that were as deferential in their tone as they were abhorrent in their implications. Gandhi described a 1939 letter as a “mere impertinence.” That letter included this signoff: “I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, your sincere friend, Sd. M. MK Gandhi.”
In a Dec. 24, 1940 letter, Gandhi told Hitler he had no doubt of his “bravery or devotion to your fatherland.” Gandhi opposed a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, insisting, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs.” But then he actually echoed Nazi propaganda, with a warning that “this cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.” That put pacifism and peace movements into a slightly altered focus.
Then comes some history relating to the Mennonites. They were even more supportive of Hitler than Gandhi. Mr. Frantzman cites a letter of Sept. 10, 1933 from the Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites to the Fuhrer to express “deep gratitude for a powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy” and wished Hitler a “joyful cooperation in the building up of our Fatherland through the power of the gospel.” The Mennonites learned nothing from their embrace of Hitler and now they are embracing another Hitler-like figure, Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Frantzman writes, “If its enthusiasm for hosting Ahmadinejad is any guide, the Mennonite Church has learned little from this dark chapter in its past. On the contrary, the church’s alliance with the Iranian leader is an extension of its hard-line, anti-Israel politics, which find expression in its funding of books advocating the so-called ‘right-of-return’ for Palestinian Arabs – a policy that, if implemented, would mean the destruction of Israel.”
I have written about the vicious anti-Israel bias of the Mennonite Church in earlier columns. See “Mennonite Leaders Behave More Like Bigots Than Men of God” (March 6). In that column, I noted how the view of the Mennonites is that Israel should be blamed for all the violence and other problems of the Middle East. No blame is found for Palestinians. In fact, such matters as suicide bombers, threats of genocide, repeated calls to drive the Jews into the sea, a constant barrage of anti-Semitic propaganda flowing from their official government institutions and their mosques the Mennonites find unremarkable and not even worth mention or analyzing. They only have time for criticism of the Israelis, giving the impression the Palestinians in all matters are blameless and almost saint-like.
When I did that column, I could not get any response or explanation from the Mennonites. At one point I was told they didn’t have time to prepare a response but I might find one on their Web site. When I went there, I found the same kind of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda that caused me to ask for an explanation. The more I studied their views, the more appalling I found them. They deny Israel’s right to exist but even go beyond that. They deny the right of the Jews to live and exist. They would require Israel to tear down its fence designed to keep terrorists out; they would require Israel to retreat to its pre-1967 borders so it would be indefensible; they would grant Palestinian refugees a right to return, meaning the extinction of Israel. They would take every measure to permit the Arabs, Hamas and other terrorists to carry out their genocidal declarations.
So the Mennonites will be in the kind of company they like when they break bread with Mr. Ahmadinejad. And they are in the kind of company they like when they team up with these other Christian groups to host Mr. Ahmadinejad.
For example, the Quakers have been known for their extreme anti-Israel bias. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the “peace” arm of the Quakers, has supported the PLO and backs radical anti-Israel groups like Zochrot. The AFSC opposes Israel’s attempts to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. So it is not surprising that the Quakers are drawn to Mr. Ahmadinejad and break bread with the man who advocates genocide and calls for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map.
Mr. Frantzman concludes: “By any reasonable standard, self-styled peace activists might be expected to condemn leaders who support terrorism and who unashamedly seek the destruction of other nations. But just as advocates of non-violence found a way to accommodate the genocidal designs of Adolph Hitler, so they have been willing to make peace with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And just as Gandhi never expressed remorse for his ‘dear friend’ letters to Hitler, its unlikely that these supposed believers in non-violence will break a dinner date with his Iranian heir.”
I told you at the outset this is a strange phenomenon. Five Christian peace groups are embracing Hitler’s heir, Mr. Ahmadinejad, the world’s foremost advocate of genocide, terrorism and death to the West. It is an association with someone who is as close as we can get to a real live Devil, and an association, which these five Christian groups should be called upon to explain. These five Christian groups call into question their very nature and you have to wonder if they should use as their symbol the swastika rather than the cross.
Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at [email protected] .