Day 20 - Palestinian Christians

Palestinian Christians have dwindled in number to become a small community within the larger population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  However, their beneficial role serving society is disproportionate to their size. 

For a number of years there has been growing concern about the future of Christianity in the Holy Lands.  Palestinian Christians have a proud tradition of education and are disproportionately well educated.  Given the pressures of decades of “Occupation,” with advanced education a significant number have been able to migrate to other parts of the world. 

On our visit we met with Dr. Bernard Sabella.  He is a leading Palestinian Sociologist who has studied the Palestinian Christian population.  A Roman Catholic layman, Sabella has taught at Bethlehem University; he has worked with the humanitarian service program of the Middle East Council of Churches; and he is a member of the Palestinian National Legislature.   Below is a video from July 2011 in which he speaks with PBS’s Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly.  The points he makes in this video segment were remarks he reiterated when he spoke with us:  (Sabella is featured in the first 6 minutes of the segment; the Archbishop of Canterbury is among those featured later in the segment.)

Watch Christians in the Holy Land Extended Excerpts on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Recently, Palestinian Christians have become the topic of an Israeli propaganda campaign.  On March 9, in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, offered a distorted argument suggesting that Palestinian Christians are better off under the protection of a Jewish State than they are with their Muslim neighbors: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970203960804577239923033348982-lMyQjAxMTAyMDIwODEyNDgyWj.html?mod=wsj_share_email   Palestinian Christian leaders were quick to reject the suggestion and felt that it was a ploy to justify Israel’s gradual takeover of Arab East Jerusalem (Palestinians refer to this as the Judization of Jerusalem) and an attempt to drive a wedge between Christians and their Muslim neighbors.   

Earlier, in December 2009, Palestinian Christians leaders came together to present their own view of their situation to the world with the document Karios Palestine: http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf

The preamble of the document says:

“In this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.”

Condemned as “anti-Israel” by critics, which the authors deny, it is a powerful articulation of the hope and faith of Palestinian Christians living under occupation.