Christians in the Holy Land
Jerusalem, on 1st February 2006
By Dr. Fr. Peter Madros
Christian Palestinians do exist in the Holy Land!
We are roughly 170.000, from Dan to Bersabea, in the Holy Land,
administratively divided into Israel and Palestine (autonomous territories).
We have , as Latin Patriarchate, in the Holy Land and Jordan, around 60
parishes, most of them served by our Diocesan priests, except around the
Shrines where Franciscans are usually the Pastors : Jerusalem, Bethlehem,
Nazareth, Cana, Jericho, Akko, Ramleh. In Haifa Carmelites are the Pastors.
The only groups that the "Evangelicals" acknowledge are their own followers
and their respective "pastors" in Israel and the Palestinian autonomous
territories. I suppose they are less than 5 per cent of all the Christians
in the Palestinian territories. They are more numerous in Israel, as they
have, for instance in Nazareth, old congregations and schools. Our
Palestinian "evangelicals" are actually supported by their brethren
especially of the USA. They do have their schools, the so-called American
Jerusalem school (in Bethlehem and Beit Jala, near Bethlehem), although the
students do not necessarily come from their congregations. Some actually
Fr. Labib Kobti has a wonderful site about the Holy Land Christians included
in the Al-Bushra at http://www.al-bushra.org/hedchrch/christianshl.htm
As many of our Palestinian Christians live in Jordan (where 64 percent of
the population is Palestinian), I am inclined to believe that good 38
percent of our Jordan Christians are Palestinians.
One can hardly ignore personalities like Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and other
present Oriental Catholic Patriarchs (of the Melkites and of the Syriac
Catholics) who used to be Patriarchal Vicars in Jerusalem.
Anglican Canon Dr. Na'eem Ateek has a good site SAbeel and organization which
introducing Palestinian Christians and the Liberation Theology issues.
These are only quick names:
Dr. Bernard Sabella, Bethlehem University Jerusalem born Professor, recently
elected to the Palestinian Parliament (so not Hamas obviously!) may
more exact statistics than mine.
- The Christian Muslim relationships were officially excellent, as far as
top officials were concerned, during the last twelve years. Late President
Arafat , whose wife - widow- is Christian- was very keen on Christians and
used to mention the Christian Holy Places in Palestine before the Islamic
Mufti and Patriarchs and Bishops meet regularly.
But on the less high ranking officials and on the popular level, a great
deal of injustices against the Palestinian people in general and against
Palestinian Christians was done, actually by Palestinian authority more or
less high members and by some armed groups, of course of Islamic background.
That very corruption and lack of order pushed many Muslims - the majority-
to vote for Hamas.
- Before any other details, such internal injustices should not at all
justify the Israeli occupation and permanent domination of another nation.
Palestinians should rule themselves, in justice and equity. Military
occupation and alien domination are to be rejected categorically.
- In the mosques many imams would often attack Christianity, especially our
Trinity, Incarnation, divinity of Christ. They would make confusion -
whether it is a meant or a spontaneous one- between the USA and the UK
occupying Iraq and Christians everywhere. This is an additional cause
pretext for anti-Christian resentment.
- Protesting against the Israeli occupation and domination is often
accompanied by criticism and hatred towards the "Christian West" which
supported Israel and allowed it to exist on the expenses of Palestine and
the Arab countries.
- Long before the cartoons, many Christian Palestinians were wronged,
especially in the Bethlehem region. We have more than 150 cases of
Palestinian Christians unjustly and violently evicted from their properties,
especially lands, - evicted by fellow Palestinians. This is no secret.
- Hamas, paradoxically, seems keens on giving back those properties and
- The cartoons issue was the occasion for some fanatics to show hatred
towards Christians and contempt towards the Cross who is part of the Danish
flag. But no incidents of aggression ere registered.
This is a very short report. Please reply and I shall continue!
Dr. Fr. Peter H. Madros