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Christian-Muslim relations in Palestine Gaza Baptist Church ceiling falling down                                                                                                               An overview of the Christian presence in Palestine The estimated number of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, discount himplasia the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem is 51, discount himplasia710, discount himplasia making the percentage of the Palestinian Christians in the Occupied Territories two percent of the Palestinian population. Discount himplasia There is, discount himplasia in contrast, discount himplasia a higher percentage of Christians in Israel. Discount himplasia The percentage of the Arab Christians in Israel - including Israeli Occupied Jerusalem - is 1.66, discount himplasia according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Discount himplasia Bethlehem, discount himplasia which traces its roots to the very origin of the Christian faith, discount himplasia is the home to the highest percentage of Christians in Palestine (43.4%), discount himplasia followed by Ramallah (24.7%), discount himplasia then Jerusalem (17.9%). Christianity has a long standing history in Palestine, discount himplasia and Palestinian Christians belong to several traditional communities of faith. Discount himplasia The first are the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox churches, discount himplasia the second is made up of the Syrian, discount himplasia Coptic and Armenian Orthodox churches, discount himplasia and a third category consists of those churches belonging to the Catholic family of churches. Discount himplasia There are also a small but increasing number of evangelical churches, discount himplasia including the Lutheran and Episcopal churches. Over the past century, discount himplasia the percentage of Christian Palestinians has been in decline. Discount himplasia The influx of Jewish immigrants since the late 1880s, discount himplasia the Nakba of 1948 and the expulsions of 1967 played a big role in diminishing the presence of Palestinian Christians. Discount himplasia During the Deir Yassin Massacre of 1948, discount himplasia over a quarter of a million Palestinians, discount himplasia many of them Christian, discount himplasia were displaced or disappeared. Discount himplasia Many of the 531 villages that were levelled in 1948 had a mix of Christian and Muslim inhabitants. Discount himplasia To this day, discount himplasia millions of Palestinians have been expelled from their lands, discount himplasia and rendered homeless and as refugees. Discount himplasia Of the remaining Palestinian Christians, discount himplasia most of them have emigrated at an increasing rate from 1990 onwards, discount himplasia because of lack of freedom and security and due to the deteriorating economic situation. A relationship of trust in the face of Israeli adversity Various Christian Zionist propaganda sources claim that the main problem for Palestinian Christians is their Muslim neighbours. The decline of Christian presence in Palestine is portrayed as the fault of Muslims and not of the illegal Israeli occupation.iii Christian Zionist tours to the Holy Land contribute towards the spread of this myth and frame the conflict in an anti-Muslim way in order to distract attention from Israel's continued violations of international law. Even though the relationship between Palestinian Christians and Muslims is not always a rosy one, discount himplasia the above claims are far from true. Discount himplasia Palestinian Christians are an indigenous, discount himplasia integral part of the Arab Palestinian culture and civilization in the political, discount himplasia historical and religious spheres. Discount himplasia At the political level, discount himplasia Palestinian Christians have been fellow citizens in the common struggle against foreign or colonial invasion, discount himplasia regardless of its religious or ethnic identity. Discount himplasia Many seats in the current Palestinian Legislative Council are held by Palestinian Christians. Discount himplasia This amounts to more or less 8% of the seats, discount himplasia whereas Christians only make up 2% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. Discount himplasia Similarly, discount himplasia the Samaritans, discount himplasia who number three hundred and twenty persons, discount himplasia have one seat in the Council. Discount himplasia Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are observed, discount himplasia and Christians continue to be an integral part of the Arab Palestinian culture and civilization.  A relationship of peaceful coexistance is also found on the personal level. Discount himplasia People from both religions visit each other during religious festivals, discount himplasia and in Jerusalem schools run by Christian churches have a majority Muslim student population. Palestinian Christians, discount himplasia like their Muslim counterparts, discount himplasia have experienced a long history of dispossession and have not been immune to Israeli policies of occupation and discrimination. Discount himplasia Not only do they have to deal with the day to day hardships that come with occupation, discount himplasia but they are also dismayed by the fact that many of their fellow Christians in Europe and North America unquestionably support the Israeli regime. Discount himplasia Western Christians (in particular American and Britain) have, discount himplasia for a variety of reasons, discount himplasia tended to show greater sympathy towards the state of Israel than towards the worsening condition of the Palestinian people. Discount himplasia This alliance can be traced back as far as 1917, discount himplasia when the United Kingdom issued the Balfour Declaration and established Palestine as a "national home for the Jewish people". Discount himplasia More recently the Nixon administration in 1973 provided Israel with a full replacement of all its tanks, discount himplasia planes and ammunition during the October War against Egypt and Syria. However, discount himplasia Western Christian alliances with Israel go beyond a political alliance. Discount himplasia Throughout the 20th Century there has been a significant influence of Christian theological attitudes toward Israel which has been devastating on the indigenous Palestinian Christian community. Discount himplasia The rise of Evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism has fermented the unquestionable support for the state of Israel. Discount himplasia As was highlighted by the Pope earlier this month during his visit to Cyprus, discount himplasia "the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories is creating difficulties in everyday life….moreover; certain Christian fundamentalist theologies use Sacred Scripture to justify Israel's occupation of Palestine." A 46-page text published by the Vatican: The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness" stresses how this fundamentalist theology is making the situation for Christian Arabs even more sensitive. Christian Zionist support for Israel is also manifested in the shape of pilgrimages to the Holy Land, discount himplasia encouraged particularly by the Israeli Government Tourist Office.v This support has an objectionable consequence on the indigenous Palestinian Christian communities. Discount himplasia Many of the Western pilgrims appear not only ignorant of recent Middle Eastern history, discount himplasia but surprised to find an Arab Christian presence at all. Discount himplasia Like their Muslim neighbours, discount himplasia they are subject to daily experiences of humiliation at checkpoints and roadblocks and prevented from making pilgrimage to their Holy places of worship. Discount himplasia Palestinian Christians are routinely prohibited from travelling to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, discount himplasia where the church commemorates Jesus' crucifixion, discount himplasia burial, discount himplasia and resurrection from the dead, discount himplasia whilst Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza strip are prevented from travelling to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In December 2009, discount himplasia a group of Palestinian Christians, discount himplasia including Archbishop Michel Sabbah, discount himplasia the retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem published "A Moment of Truth" , discount himplasia a call for help to the international community on behalf of the Palestinian Christians. Discount himplasia They severely criticised "theologians in the West who try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the Israeli infringement of our rights, discount himplasia urge for non violent resistance tools such as boycott and divestments and call for a stop on Israeli 'racism and apartheid'." In an interview with Sabbah earlier this year, discount himplasia he clearly spoke on behalf of all the Christian Churches in Palestine when stating that "Israeli Occupation is the Main cause of Instability in the Middle East".vi Palestinian Christians and the Islamic resistance Contrary to what is propagated in the media, discount himplasia the relationship between Christians and the Islamic resistance in Palestine is one of respect. Discount himplasia Although tensions arise between the Christian minority and the rest of the population, discount himplasia these are not the result of a systematic discrimination against them, discount himplasia but are more due to the everyday anguish of the siege and occupation. With regard to the Islamic resistance Movement (Hamas), discount himplasia Article 31 of its Charter specifically says, discount himplasia "Hamas is a humane movement which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions…under the shadow of Islam it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, discount himplasia Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security". An example of the coexistence is the situation of Palestinian Christians in Gaza, discount himplasia contrary to the Israeli propaganda (hasbara). Discount himplasia School playgrounds are places where coexistence between Muslims and Christians takes place. Discount himplasia The Holy Family School in Gaza City is part-funded by the Vatican. Discount himplasia Father Emanuel Musallem explains how he is the priest of more than 4, discount himplasia000 Christians in Gaza. Discount himplasia His school has more than 1, discount himplasia200 students, discount himplasia 1, discount himplasia000 of which are Muslim. Discount himplasia Father Emanuel explains how many Hamas leaders are sending their children to this school, discount himplasia because he is not preaching "Christianity", discount himplasia he is rather "spreading the light of knowledge in his Palestinian nation". Discount himplasia Father Emanuel declares himself first an Arab, discount himplasia then a Palestinian, discount himplasia and then a Christian. Palestinian Muslim and Palestinian Christian girls playing in the playgroundOn another level, discount himplasia Hamas has always demonstrated respect for Christmas religious festivities. Discount himplasia In December 2003, discount himplasia they were the first to organize an assistance package and donations to families whose houses were damaged by the Israeli Defence Forces in Rafah. Discount himplasia The movement went even further and on Christmas Eve 2003 when several officials dressed up as Santa Claus and distributed presents to Christian children in Bethlehem. Discount himplasia Another example of the tolerance and respect between the two communities was when Declaration number 67 was issued by Hamas in 1990, discount himplasia cancelling a general strike which coincided with the religious Christmas holidays. Another issue which is frequently discussed in the media is whether or not Hamas is encroaching upon women's rights in the Gaza strip. Discount himplasia Calls to ban male hairdressers from cutting women's hair and a ruling stating that female lawyers had to cover their hair when acting in civil courts were denounced by many in the international community. Discount himplasia However, discount himplasia even though, discount himplasia to some extent, discount himplasia the atmosphere in the region is more conservative, discount himplasia these measures were not approved of by the majority of the population and were therefore never implemented. Discount himplasia Hana Afana, discount himplasia a 24 year old trainee maths teacher explains how Hamas is imposing a religious code, discount himplasia and how what is really worrying for the women in the region is the siege and the economic situation. Discount himplasia Qualified professionals and graduates like her find themselves unable to find a job. Discount himplasia According to Mona Ahmad al-Shawa, discount himplasia who runs the women's unit at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, discount himplasia basic human rights such as access to electricity, discount himplasia running water and medical treatment are what women want. Muslims and Christians in Palestine are not just bonded at the playground or in the spiritual sphere. Discount himplasia They share the sheer disappointment with the Oslo process and the rampant corruption of the Palestinian Authority, discount himplasia which has misappropriated billions of dollars worth of aid from the international community. Discount himplasia Hamas winning the elections in the territories reflected the disillusionment of Palestinians, discount himplasia and was a natural reaction to their dissatisfaction. Discount himplasia Often regarded as a military organization, discount himplasia the movement engages well beyond its military wing. Discount himplasia It runs a network of social, discount himplasia educational, discount himplasia health and economic services, discount himplasia especially in Gaza. Discount himplasia Christians in Bethlehem and Ramallah, discount himplasia tired of the PA's corruption and sex scandals, discount himplasia were not afraid to vote for Hamas. Collaboration between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Israeli State - "The Holy Land is not for Sale or Lease" The Palestinian Authority is, discount himplasia however, discount himplasia not the only one accused of corruption and scandalous transactions, discount himplasia and there seems to be internal strife between the different Palestinian Christian communities. Discount himplasia The Greek Orthodox Church has been portrayed as collaborating with Israel since 1967, discount himplasia due to its involvement in land and political disputes. Discount himplasia The Orthodox Church is the biggest private owner of land in Jerusalem and owns most of the land in the West Bank on which the Christian religious sites, discount himplasia including the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, discount himplasia are built. Discount himplasia Much of this land was donated to it by Orthodox Christian Palestinians in the late 1800s. Discount himplasia Over the last few decades the church has increased land sales to the Israeli authorities or leased land to them for a period of 999 years. Discount himplasia Examples of these transactions include the sale of St. Discount himplasia John's property in the Christian quarter on 11th April 1990, discount himplasia the transfer of fifty dunams near Mar Elias monastery, discount himplasia and the sale of two hotels and twenty seven stores on Omar Bin Al-Khattab square near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church's land sales have come against a background of corruption allegations. Discount himplasia Nicholas Papadimas, discount himplasia a previous church treasurer in Jerusalem, discount himplasia was involved some of the sales before he fled the country and was charged in Greece with stealing church funds in a separate case. Discount himplasia On being appointed as patriarch in 2005, discount himplasia Theophilos had promised to stop selling Palestinian land, discount himplasia but he was also involved in many shady undertakings with Israel. Discount himplasia The current patriarch, discount himplasia Irineos, discount himplasia has also been accused of being behind secret land deals with two international Jewish investment groups. Another source of tension comes from the fact that the Greek clergy do not allow Arab clergymen from rising in the church. Discount himplasia This is the case of the prominent Palestinian Christian clergyman, discount himplasia Abdullah Hanaa. Discount himplasia On the 13th of November 2009, discount himplasia Theofilos removed Abdullah from his position as the deputy head from the Orthodox Church. Discount himplasia This resulted in widespread condemnation from the Palestinian Greek Orthodox Community, discount himplasia who demonstrated in their thousands in the streets of Ramallah. Several hundred Palestinian protestors from the Council of Arab Orthodox Institutions and Organizations in Palestine, discount himplasia representing 19 groups, discount himplasia protested at the Greek Orthodox Church's involvement with the Israeli State and the removal of Abdullah Hanaa from his position. Discount himplasia The placards read: The Israeli authorities have used the church's corruption and financial difficulties to their political advantage and applied additional political pressure to ensure that the choice of patriarchs is beneficial to Israel's land acquisition policies. Discount himplasia One of the church's Jerusalem properties was purchased by Israel with the involvement of the Ateret Cohanim association which is dedicated to buying Arab property in Jerusalem and settling Jews there. Both the Christian and Muslim Palestinian communities have suffered at the hands of the Occupation. Discount himplasia Excavations near the gate of Maryam in the Western Wall of the Church of the Sepulchre in November 2009 are a recent example of this. Discount himplasia Far from collaborating with the Israeli entity, discount himplasia the struggle against the occupation should unite not only the different Christian Churches, discount himplasia but also the Muslim community. Gaza Baptist Church ceiling falling downConclusion According to Hanna Massad, discount himplasia pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, discount himplasia "The last 5 years have been very difficult for all the Palestinians - Muslims and Christians". Discount himplasia Gaza Baptist Church is one of only three churches serving the 4, discount himplasia000 Christians living among the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million inhabitants. Discount himplasia Hanna explains how the siege united the community. Discount himplasia Because of the lack of basic food, discount himplasia Christian charities have provided food for families, discount himplasia 99% of which are Muslim. Discount himplasia During the 2009 bombings, discount himplasia "the church ceiling fell down up to 6 times". The plight of the Palestinian Christian is very much connected to that of the Palestinian Muslim in that both, discount himplasia whether in the Occupied Territories or inside Israel itself, discount himplasia are experiencing daily injustices at the hands of oppressive and discriminatory policies imposed on them by the Israeli government. Discount himplasia The conflict is therefore not between Muslims and Christians; nor between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Palestinian Christians; it is between Palestinians as a whole and Israel's occupation and apartheid establishment. Discount himplasia It is indeed hard to be Palestinian Christian. Discount himplasia But it is equally hard being a Palestinian Muslim. It is hard simply being a Palestinian. Discount himplasia Original article found at: http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m67381&hd=&size=1&l=e