Letter to Archbishop of Canterbury from Kairos Palestine

  Bethlehem, 18 June 2011

The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams

Archbishop of Canterbury

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace Road

London

 

Your Grace,

Kairos Palestine is deeply troubled by your recent comments
regarding the situation of Christians in the Middle East in general and more
particularly those related to the Palestinian Christians, as it was aired on
the June 14 broadcast of the BBC news programme “The World at One.”[1]

Your inaccurate and erroneous remarks cite Muslim extremism as the
greatest threat facing Christians in Palestine, and the primary reason for our
emigration. Your statements about Bethlehem are particularly faulty and
offensive especially when you say that the movement of Muslims into the
Bethlehem area, where space is limited, is forcing Christians to leave.

Equally shocking is how Your Grace managed, diplomatically –instead
of being prophetic, as one would expect you to be, not to mention the Israeli occupation, the
separation wall, Israel  confiscation of
Palestinian land, its policies that violate freedom of movement and worship
(Palestinians in Bethlehem cannot, for instance, go to Jerusalem), or its
brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests as one of the major reasons that push
not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians.

We were hoping that Your Grace would have a different voice than the
one in mass media and other right wing political parties, which exploit our
sufferings to fuel some islamophobic tendencies and negative images about
Islam. Indeed, this is what the Israeli occupation persistently tries to do. It
demonizes Islam in a way that deflects blame from the repression levied by the
state itself. We are concerned that your comments are serving the same purpose.

We were deeply saddened by your declarations because we know that
Your Grace is well informed about the situation in the Holy Land, and you know
very well that in the Bethlehem area alone there are 19 illegal Israeli
settlements (such as nearby Har Homa built on Jabal Abu Ghneim) and the wall
that have devoured Christian lands and put Bethlehem in a chokehold. You know
well that only 13% of Bethlehem area is available for Palestinian use and the
wall isolates 25% or the Bethlehem area’s agricultural land. Not to mention the
situation of Christians in Jerusalem, which you know very well, since you
should have received reports from the Anglican Bishop in the City whose
residency permit was denied by the occupying power. We can go on and on, but it
is no longer important…

We are no longer expecting support from Church leaders around the
world. Our Hope, Faith and Love come from elsewhere. However, at the same time,
we request you and every leader, especially church leaders, not to use us and
our cause for your own purposes. We are so thankful to Your Grace for the
“International Conference on Christians in the Holy Land” that you are holding
in your Palace in July, but we feel it will be useless, not to say harmful to
us, indigenous Christians in the land of the Holy One, if the outcome will be
in the same spirit as your interview.

Since Your Grace did not meet or consult with any Palestinian
Christians during your recent visit here, we are wondering why would you be
suddenly interested to speak on our behalf? This troubles us. Palestinian Christians
are fully capable of expressing their situation without needing anyone to
interpret what they mean; we are happy to meet directly with church leaders
and, in solidarity, discuss our reality and what can be done to transform it.

Finally, we would like to remind Your Grace that Christian
Palestinians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth,
that will lead to peace and justice in our home.

With all our due respect.

Rifat Odeh Kassis

 

 

Kairos Palestine
Coordinator


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