The intention of this page is to give a Christian Palestinian point of view on the Middle East conflict; the Palestinian Christian viewpoint can differ quite remarkably from the Muslim Palestinian, which is much more often heard. There are Christian Palestinians who subscribe to many different Christian sects, including, but not exclusive to: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Druze, Methodists, Lutheran, Anglican, etc...
There are many groups, comprising a minority of the Palestinian population. These people are rarely heard from in most debates about Palestine or its future.
One of the reasons for this entry is to illuminate the fact that Christian Palestinians are leaving the holy land (Palestine / Israel) in large numbers. The Pope John Paul II (Il Baba - in Arabic)) has addressed some of these concerns asking for them Christian Palestininas to remain, however, it has become very difficult for even the most wealthy.
See the following statement:
- VATICAN, Mar. 9, 01 (CWNews.com) -- As he met with a group of bishops from Arab countries, who were in Rome for their ad limina visit, Pope John Paul II called for an immediate resumption of negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The Pope said that the "distressing" events of recent days "have sorely tested our hope for peace" in the regoin. He therefore stressed the urgency of "a rapid return to the negotiating table."
- The Holy Father also said that Christians in the Arab lands should "not give in to the temptation to discouragement," nor "the temptation to abandon your native land." He continued: "I would actively encourage Christians to have confidence in themselves, and remain firmly attached to the lands of their ancestors." He particularly stressed the importance of maintaining a permanent Christian presence in Jerusalem.
- The Pope also encouraged the Catholic bishops of the region to be active participants in inter-religious dialogue, while resisting "every form of mediocrity and superficial religiosity." He said that divisions among Christians are evidence of "infidelity" to Christ, and must be overcome by "show our determination" to achieve full unity.
- In concluding his remarks, the Pope mentioned the "tragic" situations in several Arab countries. He spoke of Iraq, where "the embargo continues to claim victims." And he called upon the Arab lands of northern Africa to show their hospitality toward the refugees fleeing from civil war and famine in Sudan.
Some examples of Christian Palestinian points of view that are often ignored in negotitions with Israelis and the present Palestinian Authority include:
- Ignoring the need for Christian Palestinians to have access to holy sites in the Galilee and other places in the holy land (Palestine / Israel).
- Not including Christian Palestinians, or their views, into the present government heirarchy. Creating a government structure that does not include all Palestinian peoples.
- Not understanding that the majority of Christian Palestinians live outside Israel / Palestine. These Palestinians will also require assimilation back into mainstream Palestinian society, because they have lost the community associations, after a just peace is achieved.
- Recognizing that many of these Christian Palestinian people are the most educated of Palestinians, and therefore had the where-with-all to sustain themselves without the need of UN agencies or refugee camps, they also will require compensation (if they choose not to go back) or assistance (monetary and moral support) if they do decide to return. It can be said with a certain degree of certainty that they will not be welcomed back without some protests, and discomfort.
(Not finished will require more editing, and revision)
There exists some mistreatment of Christians by the PA authorities. In July 1997, the PA police broke down the doors of the Abraham’s Oak Russian Monastery in Hebron, physically assaulted the monks and nuns, and expelled them from the premises. (Israel Government Press Office, July 9, 1997) In September, a Palestinian Arab Christian named Muhammed Bakr, from the village of Kin, was arrested and tortured by the PA police for distributing Bibles to Muslims. (Jerusalem Report, September 4, 1997)
An Israeli Government report in October 1997 found that “on the social and religious level, the few Christians remaining in PA-controlled areas are subjected to brutal and relentless persecution. Christian cemeteries have been destroyed, monasteries have had their telephone lines cut, and there have been break-ins to convents.” Referring to an attack on Christian youngsters by Islamic militants in Beit Sahur in August 1997, the report says that “Rather than investigating the incident and punishing those responsible, the PA is attempting to cover it up and has threatened anyone who dares to publicize the story. (Jerusalem Post, October 24, 1997)
An investigative report by the British newspaper Telegraph in December 1997 concluded that “Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is waging a campaign of intimidation and harassment to punish Muslims who have converted to Christianity to renounce their new faith.” (Telegraph, December 21, 1997)
The plight of Christians living under PA rule has become so serious that in 1998, two different American courts, one in Illinois and the other in North Carolina, accepted the threat of "religious persecution" as grounds for granting asylum to Christians fleeing PA territory. (Jerusalem Report, April 2, 1998)
On the other hand, Yasser Arafat's wife Suha is a Christian Palestinian.