Can Palestinian Christians achieve what Palestinian Muslims failed to do?
(translated by Nora Carmi from Arabic)
A strange question this maybe when Palestinian Christians whose numbers are dwindling into extinction are only 2% of the total Arab population in Palestine/Israel. T he number of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, the holy city, is a mere 0.02 per cent, and yet, they too endure all forms of Israeli religious and ethnic persecution, reasons enough for Christians to have been involved in the resistance against the Israeli Occupation in both the first and second uprisings (intifadas). Because of that (involvement), they still suffer the same fate as the Muslims at the hand of the Israeli occupation.
Palestinian Christians have long been awaiting, along with their Muslim brethrens, the supportive responses of the Arab and Muslim world, as they have been waiting for international initiatives to political solutions- all of which have so far lead to – nothing-
Face to this impasse/blocked wall, Palestinian Christians relive the similar tragedy of the indigenous native people of South Africa under the racial discrimination regime, Apartheid. They also discovered the secret clues for the fall of that regime. Countries around the world boycotted the racist regime until the oppressive rulers had to kneel down and were forced to give the undermined legal owners their rights.
In revising this great historical change, the Palestinian Christians faced a second reality, that all Christian Churches, regardless of variety and differences, stood together and declared the apartheid system an unforgivable ‘sin’ against Christian beliefs, values and ethics. Hence the call to believers all around the world for boycott came out of their faith.
Inspired and encouraged (by kairos ‘change’) Palestinian Christian leaders issue a paper entitled “ A moment of truth, a word of faith hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering” which was launched from Bethlehem.
Kairos, as it is known in Christianity, starts by confirming the painful truth that the Palestinian tragedy has reached a deadlock since decision makers are satisfied in managing the crisis instead of seriously working to find a solution. This fills the hearts of the faithful with despair and questions. What is the international family doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, Israel and the Arab World doing? And what is the CHURCH doing?
The (Palestinian) cause is not only a political issue. A policy that destroys human beings IS a concern of the Church. The church initiatives along with a series of other initiatives of human particularities undertaken by the world movement were all measures that brought striking economic and moral blows on the head of a racist system until it was totally hit by a deadly blow.
In this background, Palestinian Christian leaders wondered why a universal Christian position against the Israeli occupation should not be issued. The leaders brought the matter to the WCC in Geneva, the body that comprises of 365 evangelical and orthodox churches and it was met with wide and positive response.
The paper/document notes that everybody speaks of peace and the peace process in the Middle East, but it is only talk while the reality on the ground is Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and deprivation of our freedom in all its forms:
*The separation wall constructed on Palestinian Land confiscating large parts of it. (The wall) It has transformed our towns and villages into prisons, separating them into cantons and fragmented tethers. Gaza , after the savage assault /war waged by Israel in December 2008 and January 2009 is still living under inhuman conditions in continuous siege. Gaza and its people are geographically severed from all Palestinian areas.
*The Israeli colonies (settlements) that pillage our land in the name of God and power imposing control on all natural resources, water and agricultural land deprive hundred thousands of Palestinians of their use. Settlements have become an obstacle with no practical solution…
*The humiliation that we are subjugated to at military checkpoints which we have to cross daily to go to work, school or hospitals
*The separation of members of the same family renders normal family life an almost impossible matter for thousands of Palestinians, when one of the spouses does not carry an Israeli ID (identity card)
*Religious freedom and free access to holy sites is limited and sporadic under the guise of ‘security’. The sacred sites are tabooed to Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even to Jerusalemites on Feast days. The Arab Clergy are regularly refused entry to Jerusalem.
*Refugees are part of the reality. The majority still live in refugee camps under difficult conditions unfit for her human beings. Generation after the other, these refugees await their return. What is their fate and future?
*Prisoners. Thousands of them in Israeli prisons are another reality. Israel moves the world in order to free one prisoner while thousands of Palestinians stagnate and rot in Israeli jails. When will they be liberated?
*Jerusalem , the heart of the reality is both a symbol of peace and a sign of strife. After the separation wall isolated Palestinian neighborhoods, the depopulation of its Palestinian and Muslim inhabitants continues. Identity cards are revoked, homes demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem the city of reconciliation has become a city of division and dissent, a place of fighting instead of peace.
*The paper also mentions the suffering of Palestinians within Israeli, that of refugees and internally displaced and the policy of collective punishment practiced by Israel.
The document declares that
- The present situation does not announce /predict any solution in the near future nor the end of the Israeli occupation, Yes, initiatives, conferences, visits and negotiations are numerous, but none of them have resulted in any change of our condition and suffering.Even the recent position declared by President Obama and his obvious intention to put an end to the tragedy did not effectively change the reality on the ground. Israeli boldly refuses any solution or opening for hope.
The paper then speaks of the injustice against the Palestinian people saying: The Israeli occupation is an evil we need to resist. It is an evil and a sin that needs to be resisted and removed. This responsibility first and foremost falls upon the Palestinians living under occupation. Christian Love calls for resistance because love will reduce and limit evil if we walk the path of justice. Then the responsibility is that of the international family since international law is what dictates and rules relations between peoples. Finally, the oppressor liberates himself from evil by rectifying the injustice imposed on the oppressed.
Next come the calls to
*The Muslims saying; our message is one of love and shared living. It is a call against fanaticism and extremism. It is also a call to the world to see Muslims as a goal to peace and an address to dialogue instead of a targe to kill or the address to terrorism.
* The call to the Christian World, and this is the heart of the matter, is imploring the World churches not to give a theological justification /cover to the injustice which we live in or the sin of the occupation. Our question today to our brethren is:
Can you help us regain our freedom and help both peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?
We condemn all forms of racism and discrimination, religious or ethnic including Anti Semitism and Islamophobia. We invite you to stand firm against and condemn all these forms. We call upon you to speak the truth, to have a just stand against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Boycott and divestment are non-violent means to achieve justice, peace and security for all.
The challenging question posed now is: Will the churches in the world respond to this plea of the Palestinian Christians as they responded to the cry of the South African Christians?
Will the Church consider the Israeli Occupation a sin as it considered racial discrimination/ apartheid?