What do the Christians of Palestine say?

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What do the Christians of Palestine say?

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

The Justice and Peace Committee, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, has released a new book titled, “Is peace possible? The Christian Palestinians Speak." The 160-page book contains the gist of a Christian view from within Palestine on the central issue there, namely justice and peace. The committee is considered as a think tank devoted to the current situation, whose aim is to assist bishops, clergymen, nuns and laymen in issues relevant to justice and peace in the dioceses of the Holy Land. It also seeks to promote the awareness of the Universal Church with regards to issues affecting the Church in the Holy Land. Its mission includes two main areas, namely:

First: Monitoring the general situation in the Holy Land and the Middle East with special attention to human rights by focusing on issues related to occupation, racial discrimination and inequality.

Second: Considering the situation of the Christians in the Holy Land, with special attention to the political, economic, social and cultural challenges in the entire region. The attention is focused on the relations among religions, with Muslims, Jews (as a religion), and other religious minorities.

The book's preface is written by Emeritus Patriarch Michel Sabbah who was the first Arab patriarch of the Holy City (1987-2008). He focuses in the preface on the Christian presence which does not depend on numerical presence but on the active presence in spite of the difficult life that the Christians and Muslim live through. The book talks about the distinctive identity of the Christians in the Holy Land at all ages, as well as their denominations which does not forestall having a single council of the heads of Churches that has a say under all circumstances.

A discussion is also focused on the relationship between Christians of the Holy Land, sanctified by Lord Jesus Christ, and the Churches of the world as well as about Christians in Jerusalem in particular and the Christians of the West Bank. The Christians living there are an "integral part" of the Palestinian society as they encounter the same difficulties and have the same hopes and expectations as every Palestinian.

The authors of the book dedicate a chapter on the relations between Muslims and Christians. These are "important relations, with a common history and culture as they constitute one people."

As for the Christians of Gaza, the book states: “They are very few in number, but they have deep-rooted institutions and schools at a time when the daily challenges of life are difficult, as if the entire population lives in a huge prison.”

The book addresses the Christian presence in Israel, such a presence that does not accept the Christians' enrollment in the occupation army. It also addresses the Palestinians who live abroad, where 83 per cent of the Christian Palestinians live outside the land of Palestine, especially in the Americas, Australia, Europe, and others.

Furthermore, prior to re-publishing the data relevant to the Justice and Peace Committee over the past years, the writers question the role of Christians in the future. They state that their future is linked with that of all the Palestinians, and that they are called upon to contribute with the other citizens to jointly build their society and their future despite the complexities of the final solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the Christians are able to have their voice and that of their community heard by conveying the urgent need to attain justice and peace, and by urging the international community to shoulder its responsibilities in this regard.

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