Thursday, August 4, 2011

How are Christians Living in the Palestinian Territories Treated?

What about the fate of Christians living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority?

At a 2009 Vineyard National Leadership Conference in Galveston, Texas, Palestinian Christian Sami Awad, founder of the Holy Land Trust told his evangelical audience the Christian population in the Palestinian territories is shrinking. 

In the area governed by the PA, 27,000 Christians live among 3 million Muslims. Mitchell Bard in his book Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, agrees with Sami Awad that the "proportion of Christians in the Palestinian territories has dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to less than 1 percent today."

Sami Awad, in his Vineyard speech did not qualify why the Palestinian Christian population is dwindling.  He leaves his hearers with the implication the Israeli soldiers bear the brunt of the blame.

Sami seems to forget that when Muslim authorities have control in whatever Arab country they reside, Christians do not always fair well. So tell me, Sami, how is it the Christian population in Israel proper is growing if the "Israelis are to blame for the shrinking Palestinian Christian population?" 

The Christian population declined 29 percent in the West Bank and 20 percent in the Gaza Strip from 1997. Does it have anything to do with the fact Christians are generally unwelcome in Arab countries dominated by Muslims.  Even today Islamic extremists are burning Coptic churches in Egypt as a sign of their disgust towards Christianity.

2004 NY Times article reported how Palestinian Christians were leaving Bethlehem and other historically Christian towns in the West Bank. Unsurprisingly, the article pinned the blame for the Christian exodus on the Israelis:
Four years of violence, an economic free fall and the Israeli separation barrier have all contributed to the hardships facing Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, one of the largest concentrations of Christians in the region.
The Times piece failed to give the real reason for the Christian migration - official and unofficial Muslim discrimination against Arab Christians, amid a rising tide of Islamism in the Palestinian territories. Sure, it's possible the economic problems in the West Bank and the Israeli security wall  have contributed to Christians leaving the Palestinian territories. Yet it must be noted the Christian population is dwindling in the rest of the  Islamic world as well.

Like Sami Awad the NY Times article did not mention the Christian population within Israel's borders is growing. In the period 1995 – 2003 Israel’s Arab Christian population grew from 101,400 to 115,700, a growth rate of 14.1 percent.  Today there are 145,000 followers of Christ living in Israel!

Sticking out like a sore thumb Palestinian Christians like Sami Awad do not want to treat is the fact Palestinian Christians are the victims of Islamic violence in the PA.  A 2002 Boston Globe article underscored the fact Christians in the Palestinian territories are not safe:
... details were emerging of a rampage of Palestinian Muslims against Christian shops and churches in Ramallah after a road-rage slaying last Thursday. 
... police made no attempt to stop the mob, which besieged and damaged a widely respected youth center associated with the Boy Scouts of America after torching the Christian properties. Palestinian police and security agencies finally stepped in when the rioters moved on local churches. 
... "The truth is this is a problem between Christians and Muslims," said one Christian businessman. "There is no security for us. Everyone is taking the law in his own hands. 
... "This [accused] man's brother, they burned his house, his shops, his cars, and the police of Ramallah stood by and watched. This is the democracy of Palestine?" .. "The chief of security at Kalandia was in charge of this rampage," said a Muslim shopkeeper. "The mayor of Ramallah came, saw what was happening, and withdrew. I am a Muslim, but I condemn this. These are savage people." 
"We do not have democracy; we do not have security," he said. "The fault is with our leaders and our society. We need to clean up our society."
Additional information on how Palestiniann Christians are treated in Palestinian controlled areas is found in a report compiled by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs written by David Raab entitled The Beleaguered Christians of Palestine Controlled Areas.

Sami Awad must be asleep when he points his finger at Israelis for causing the migration of Palestinian Christians from the territories. Awad has a lot of explaining to do when he trashes the Israeli military for treating his people so poorly when Palestinian Muslim vigilantes are taking the law into their own hands and heaping havoc on the Christians.  Sami would rather make the IDF the culprit for their problems since they are an easier target.  Do you blame him?

Knowing this information, we see how bad Palestinian Christians look when they attempt to pin all the blame for their problems on the Israelis. They are even willing to buy into the thinking that says the Palestinians are victims of the Jewish state "much like Jesus Himself."
 Even PLO leader Yasser Arafat tried to do a makeover on the historical Jesus to transform Him into the first radical Palestinian armed freedom fighter or fedayeen.

Today Bethlehem Bible College is calling their 2012 conference Christ at the Checkpoint: Hope in the Midst of Conflict. The name of the conference Christ at the Checkpoint depicts the Jewish Jesus as a Palestinian under scrutiny at an Israeli IDF checkpoint.  How absurd! Jesus was never scrutinized by military authorities in his day for carrying weapons or having a bomb strapped to His back. What a slap in the face to Christianity and the biblical significance of Christ.

Don't forget the official religion of the PA is Islam.  The PA has not stopped Islamic clerics giving speeches in mosques in the Palestinian territory in which they brand Christians (and Jews) as infidels. What comfort does a Palestinian Christian have listening to the violent military Islamic rhetoric and actions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbolleh?

I doubt if Sami Awad would go around to pastors conferences in the U.S. complaining about the Muslim's treatment of Palestinian Christians for fear of retaliation.  Mum is the word for Sami when it comes to the harassment Palestinian Christians experience from the Isalmic thugs who plunder the property of Christians under the watchful eye of the PA (Maariv, 12/24/01). 

Sami failed to tell his gullible Christian audience that when the Palestinian War started in 2000 Palestinian Muslims attacked Palestinian Christians in Gaza. Many Muslims at that time viewed the Palestinian Christians as a fifth column for Israel.  Christians are not treated so great in Palestine - a fact Sami Awad does not want to speak of lest he stir American Christian animosity towards Muslims.  

Why didn't Awad speak of the anti-Christian graffiti found in Bethlehem claiming, "First the Saturday people (the Jews) then the Sunday people (Christians)." Christian cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their phone lines cut and break-ins at convents have occurred in the PA territories. Palestinians Christians live under pressure from Islamic extremists to swear loyalty to the PA and to support the attacks against Israel.  

Awad preaches to the Vineyard crowd that as a Christian he is to "love his enemies", the Israeli soldiers.  He never actually tells how he shows love to Israeli soldiers patrolling in the Palestinian territories.  In light of the injustices shown by Muslims towards Christians, Sami and the non-violent evangelicals need to show the love to the radicals in his own Islamic backyard of three million Palestinian Muslims. 

Perhaps the reason why Sami Awad does not speak out against mistreatment committed by Islamic activists against Christians is that he does not possess the freedom to do so? Sami and his Palestinian Christian brothers do not enjoy the freedom enjoyed by Christians who live in Israel and therein lies the great contradiction fostered by those like Lynne Hybels, Dr. Gary Burge, Colin Chapman, Don Wagner and so many other evangelicals who foster theological hostility towards Israel.  


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