The Christian Exodus by Eileen Flemming

A House of Representative’s bill seeking co-sponsors by Rep. McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Crowley (D-NY), “condemning the persecution of Palestinian Christians by the Palestinian Authority,” is another instance of Orwellian double-speak about the Christian exodus from the Holy Land.

This resolution fails to address the real reasons for Christian emigration: the deteriorating economic situation and the political instability created by the occupation, which causes the ongoing conflict and the resultant humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian Territories. In 1948 the total population of the Holy Land was 20%, today the Christian minority is less than 1.3% of the total and shrinking fast.

“The research that forms the basis of the resolution was conducted by Professor Justus Weiner, an American/Israeli academic who is a scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in Israel. His research includes little or no input from the local indigenous Palestinian Christians: Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran communicants, and has significant inaccuracies, exaggerated conclusions and major omissions…Christians in the Holy Land and major Christian Churches of the Holy Land, and their U.S. counterparts, were not consulted!

 

Some Christian-Muslim tensions do exist and should be addressed. In addition, the Palestinian Authority should be stabilized so that it can enforce the rule of law…[However] this resolution in fact drives a dangerous wedge between Christian and Muslim Palestinians and risks making the minority Christian population even more vulnerable at a time of already heightened internal Palestinian friction…The resolution itself was drafted without the consultation of any major US church or church organization, including the Vatican-appointed Papal Nuncio who’s located in Washington, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Vision, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) or any of CMEP’s 21 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant member churches and church-related organizations.” – Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

The most pressing issues affecting the daily life of Christians, as well as Muslims, is the forty years of occupation, the route of Israel’s separation barrier which has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, the expansion of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian territories, the untenable hardships in reaching jobs, schools, health care facilities and places of worship because of the denial of freedom of movement by Israel to those born Palestinian.

Palestinian Christians are well educated and their relatively higher socioeconomic status makes it easier for them to emigrate than Muslims, who have a much higher birth rate. The Islamization of Palestinian society is a major concern for Palestinian Christians, who have always lived in a secular and pluralistic society.

The rise of fundamentalism may result in another reason for emigration, but the facts on the ground at the moment are that the mass exodus of Christians from the Holy Land is due to the occupation which causes the conflict, which results in the loss of economic opportunity, the gross injustice from the denial of basic human rights based on ethnicity by Israel and because the Palestinian Authority has not always adequately enforced human rights standards and the rule of law.

“There have been a few cases of insufficient intervention of PA security forces on behalf of Christians; however, contrary to some reports, the PA has not been responsible for systematic persecution of Christians. The PA generally maintains good relations with the Christian community. In fact, the PA has set a Christian quota in the Palestinian Legislative Council, securing seats for Christian representatives from Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem districts. Christmas and Easter are freely celebrated and Christians hold many prominent positions in Palestinian society. Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian has been a long-time member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and an official Spokesperson of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Process in the 90s. The head of the PLO mission to the US (which also relates to the PA) is Afif Safieh, a Roman Catholic. Christians currently hold other important positions, such as advisor to the President, head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority and mayors of Ramallah and Bethlehem.” – CMEP

Tensions run high in the open air prisons of the West Bank and Gaza, and as a minority group, Christians are particularly vulnerable to societal friction and the instability of life. Real tensions do exist between Christian and Muslim Palestinian communities, there is harassment and discrimination on the local level, but “violent incidents are not widespread and relations are congenial. Thuggery, mob violence and revenge attacks are problems in Palestinian society that need to be dealt with more effectively. When the victims are Christians, these problems are sometimes cast as religious persecution. Moreover, disputes between Christians and Muslims related to inter-marriage, conversion and other family and community issues have occasionally resulted in violence, but are more often related to social or inter-family conflicts. At times, Christian leaders, such as Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, have mediated these disputes and helped to restore good relations. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Palestinian society is a concern of Christians as it is for the majority of Palestinians. This concern may increase now with the election of Hamas. Furthermore, the failure to achieve a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict contributes to increased support for fundamentalist Islam in the region.” – CMEP

It is the job of churches to emphasize the importance of nonviolence and reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and the three Abrahamic faiths.

It is the duty of Congress to act in the best interests of we the people of the United States and the McCaul-Crowley resolution does NOT do that. If passed, this legislation could well speed up the Christian exodus in the land where Christ not just walked but taught that it is the Peacemakers who are the children of God.

July 2006.

Eileen FlemmingEileen Fleming

Eileen is a human rights activist and author. She lives in Florida, USA, where she plans to run for the US House of Representatives in 2008. You can read more about here life and work at www.wearewideawake.org

About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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