A strange perspective from the Archbishop of Canterbury

From http://ajpfp.tumblr.com/post/6522386599/archbishop-rowan-williams-and-bethlehem

Archbishop Rowan Williams and Bethlehem

Speaking today on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The World At
’, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams discussed the plight of
Christians in the Middle East. While the focus for much of the interview was
events in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria, Rowan Williams also touched upon Bethlehem,
and the situation of Christian Palestinians.

Incredibly, the Archbishop managed to talk about Bethlehem and its declining
Christian population without mentioning even once the words “Israel”,
“occupation”, “Separation Wall”, or “unemployment”.

Rowan Williams said that in Bethlehem, Christians are now “a marginalised
minority”, a change caused, he suggested, by Muslims “under pressure” in other
areas of the West Bank like Hebron, moving to the city. Williams said: “It’s not
ethnic cleansing exactly because it’s been far less deliberate than that, I

It is unclear why Williams presented such a misleading picture. The
Archbishop himself, after a visit to Bethlehem in 2006, wrote of

the tragic conditions created by the “security fence” that almost chokes the
shrinking town — the dramatic poverty, soaring unemployment and sheer practical
hardship of travelling to school, work or hospital.

But on Radio 4, the Archbishop failed to mention the reality of 44 years of
Israeli military occupation and colonisation. Facts such as the following:

  • In the Bethlehem area alone there are 19 illegal Israeli settlements choking
    Palestinian communities.
  • Due to Israeli colonisation and other restrictions, only 13% of the Bethlehem area is now

available for Palestinian use.

  • The Separation Wall isolates 25% of the Bethlehem area’s agricultural
  • Since 1994, almost 60,000 trees have been uprooted, burnt or cut down by
    Israeli forces in the Bethlehem area.

Archbishop Williams also ignored the ample evidence for
understanding the reasons behind the emigration of Christian Palestinians:

  • The heaviest blow to Holy Land Christians in the 20th century came in 1948,
    when the Israeli state confiscated the land and homes of 60% of Christian
  • Between 1967 and 1993, the emigration rate of Christians under Israeli
    military rule was double the national average.
  • Different surveys (see here, here & here)
    return the same answer: the overwhelming motivation for Christian emigration is
    socio-economic – “push” factors created by Israeli occupation.

Finally, to talk of “ethnic cleansing” in “the Holy Land”, yet not mention
Israeli policies documented by the likes of the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,

and many others, does a grave disservice
to the Christian and Muslim Palestinians who are suffering as a result of
illegal and inhumane policies.

If Archbishop Rowan Williams genuinely wants “the public profile of the
situation of Chistians” in Bethlehem “to be better known”, he would do well to
start with the Kairos Palestine declaration, which asks Christians in the
West a pointed question:

Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you
can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?’


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Stiaan van der Merwe on June 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Is it not the job the “church theology” and in that sense church theologians to keep the illusions alive…in the name of G*d?



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