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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, order cheap plavix the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem is 51, order cheap plavix710, order cheap plavix making the percentage of the Palestinian Christians in the Occupied Territories two percent of the Palestinian population. Order cheap plavix There is, order cheap plavix in contrast, order cheap plavix a higher percentage of Christians in Israel. Order cheap plavix The percentage of the Arab Christians in Israel - including Israeli Occupied Jerusalem - is 1.66, order cheap plavix according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Order cheap plavix Bethlehem, order cheap plavix which traces its roots to the very origin of the Christian faith, order cheap plavix is the home to the highest percentage of Christians in Palestine (43.4%), order cheap plavix followed by Ramallah (24.7%), order cheap plavix then Jerusalem (17.9%). Christianity has a long standing history in Palestine, order cheap plavix and Palestinian Christians belong to several traditional communities of faith. Order cheap plavix The first are the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox churches, order cheap plavix the second is made up of the Syrian, order cheap plavix Coptic and Armenian Orthodox churches, order cheap plavix and a third category consists of those churches belonging to the Catholic family of churches. Order cheap plavix There are also a small but increasing number of evangelical churches, order cheap plavix including the Lutheran and Episcopal churches. Over the past century, order cheap plavix the percentage of Christian Palestinians has been in decline. Order cheap plavix The influx of Jewish immigrants since the late 1880s, order cheap plavix the Nakba of 1948 and the expulsions of 1967 played a big role in diminishing the presence of Palestinian Christians. Order cheap plavix During the Deir Yassin Massacre of 1948, order cheap plavix over a quarter of a million Palestinians, order cheap plavix many of them Christian, order cheap plavix were displaced or disappeared. Order cheap plavix Many of the 531 villages that were levelled in 1948 had a mix of Christian and Muslim inhabitants. Order cheap plavix To this day, order cheap plavix millions of Palestinians have been expelled from their lands, order cheap plavix and rendered homeless and as refugees. Order cheap plavix Of the remaining Palestinian Christians, order cheap plavix most of them have emigrated at an increasing rate from 1990 onwards, order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix the above claims are far from true. Order cheap plavix Palestinian Christians are an indigenous, order cheap plavix integral part of the Arab Palestinian culture and civilization in the political, order cheap plavix historical and religious spheres. Order cheap plavix At the political level, order cheap plavix Palestinian Christians have been fellow citizens in the common struggle against foreign or colonial invasion, order cheap plavix regardless of its religious or ethnic identity. Order cheap plavix Many seats in the current Palestinian Legislative Council are held by Palestinian Christians. Order cheap plavix This amounts to more or less 8% of the seats, order cheap plavix whereas Christians only make up 2% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza. Order cheap plavix Similarly, order cheap plavix the Samaritans, order cheap plavix who number three hundred and twenty persons, order cheap plavix have one seat in the Council. Order cheap plavix Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are observed, order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix People from both religions visit each other during religious festivals, order cheap plavix and in Jerusalem schools run by Christian churches have a majority Muslim student population. Palestinian Christians, order cheap plavix like their Muslim counterparts, order cheap plavix have experienced a long history of dispossession and have not been immune to Israeli policies of occupation and discrimination. Order cheap plavix Not only do they have to deal with the day to day hardships that come with occupation, order cheap plavix but they are also dismayed by the fact that many of their fellow Christians in Europe and North America unquestionably support the Israeli regime. Order cheap plavix Western Christians (in particular American and Britain) have, order cheap plavix for a variety of reasons, order cheap plavix tended to show greater sympathy towards the state of Israel than towards the worsening condition of the Palestinian people. Order cheap plavix This alliance can be traced back as far as 1917, order cheap plavix when the United Kingdom issued the Balfour Declaration and established Palestine as a "national home for the Jewish people". Order cheap plavix More recently the Nixon administration in 1973 provided Israel with a full replacement of all its tanks, order cheap plavix planes and ammunition during the October War against Egypt and Syria. However, order cheap plavix Western Christian alliances with Israel go beyond a political alliance. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix The rise of Evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism has fermented the unquestionable support for the state of Israel. Order cheap plavix As was highlighted by the Pope earlier this month during his visit to Cyprus, order cheap plavix "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, order cheap plavix encouraged particularly by the Israeli Government Tourist Office.v This support has an objectionable consequence on the indigenous Palestinian Christian communities. Order cheap plavix Many of the Western pilgrims appear not only ignorant of recent Middle Eastern history, order cheap plavix but surprised to find an Arab Christian presence at all. Order cheap plavix Like their Muslim neighbours, order cheap plavix they are subject to daily experiences of humiliation at checkpoints and roadblocks and prevented from making pilgrimage to their Holy places of worship. Order cheap plavix Palestinian Christians are routinely prohibited from travelling to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, order cheap plavix where the church commemorates Jesus' crucifixion, order cheap plavix burial, order cheap plavix and resurrection from the dead, order cheap plavix whilst Palestinian Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza strip are prevented from travelling to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In December 2009, order cheap plavix a group of Palestinian Christians, order cheap plavix including Archbishop Michel Sabbah, order cheap plavix the retired Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem published "A Moment of Truth" , order cheap plavix a call for help to the international community on behalf of the Palestinian Christians. Order cheap plavix They severely criticised "theologians in the West who try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the Israeli infringement of our rights, order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix the relationship between Christians and the Islamic resistance in Palestine is one of respect. Order cheap plavix Although tensions arise between the Christian minority and the rest of the population, order cheap plavix these are not the result of a systematic discrimination against them, order cheap plavix but are more due to the everyday anguish of the siege and occupation. With regard to the Islamic resistance Movement (Hamas), order cheap plavix Article 31 of its Charter specifically says, order cheap plavix "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, order cheap plavix Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security". An example of the coexistence is the situation of Palestinian Christians in Gaza, order cheap plavix contrary to the Israeli propaganda (hasbara). Order cheap plavix School playgrounds are places where coexistence between Muslims and Christians takes place. Order cheap plavix The Holy Family School in Gaza City is part-funded by the Vatican. Order cheap plavix Father Emanuel Musallem explains how he is the priest of more than 4, order cheap plavix000 Christians in Gaza. Order cheap plavix His school has more than 1, order cheap plavix200 students, order cheap plavix 1, order cheap plavix000 of which are Muslim. Order cheap plavix Father Emanuel explains how many Hamas leaders are sending their children to this school, order cheap plavix because he is not preaching "Christianity", order cheap plavix he is rather "spreading the light of knowledge in his Palestinian nation". Order cheap plavix Father Emanuel declares himself first an Arab, order cheap plavix then a Palestinian, order cheap plavix and then a Christian. Palestinian Muslim and Palestinian Christian girls playing in the playgroundOn another level, order cheap plavix Hamas has always demonstrated respect for Christmas religious festivities. Order cheap plavix In December 2003, order cheap plavix they were the first to organize an assistance package and donations to families whose houses were damaged by the Israeli Defence Forces in Rafah. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix Another example of the tolerance and respect between the two communities was when Declaration number 67 was issued by Hamas in 1990, order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix However, order cheap plavix even though, order cheap plavix to some extent, order cheap plavix the atmosphere in the region is more conservative, order cheap plavix these measures were not approved of by the majority of the population and were therefore never implemented. Order cheap plavix Hana Afana, order cheap plavix a 24 year old trainee maths teacher explains how Hamas is imposing a religious code, order cheap plavix and how what is really worrying for the women in the region is the siege and the economic situation. Order cheap plavix Qualified professionals and graduates like her find themselves unable to find a job. Order cheap plavix According to Mona Ahmad al-Shawa, order cheap plavix who runs the women's unit at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, order cheap plavix basic human rights such as access to electricity, order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix They share the sheer disappointment with the Oslo process and the rampant corruption of the Palestinian Authority, order cheap plavix which has misappropriated billions of dollars worth of aid from the international community. Order cheap plavix Hamas winning the elections in the territories reflected the disillusionment of Palestinians, order cheap plavix and was a natural reaction to their dissatisfaction. Order cheap plavix Often regarded as a military organization, order cheap plavix the movement engages well beyond its military wing. Order cheap plavix It runs a network of social, order cheap plavix educational, order cheap plavix health and economic services, order cheap plavix especially in Gaza. Order cheap plavix Christians in Bethlehem and Ramallah, order cheap plavix tired of the PA's corruption and sex scandals, order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix however, order cheap plavix not the only one accused of corruption and scandalous transactions, order cheap plavix and there seems to be internal strife between the different Palestinian Christian communities. Order cheap plavix The Greek Orthodox Church has been portrayed as collaborating with Israel since 1967, order cheap plavix due to its involvement in land and political disputes. Order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix including the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem where Christians believe Jesus was born, order cheap plavix are built. Order cheap plavix Much of this land was donated to it by Orthodox Christian Palestinians in the late 1800s. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix Examples of these transactions include the sale of St. Order cheap plavix John's property in the Christian quarter on 11th April 1990, order cheap plavix the transfer of fifty dunams near Mar Elias monastery, order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix Nicholas Papadimas, order cheap plavix a previous church treasurer in Jerusalem, order cheap plavix was involved some of the sales before he fled the country and was charged in Greece with stealing church funds in a separate case. Order cheap plavix On being appointed as patriarch in 2005, order cheap plavix Theophilos had promised to stop selling Palestinian land, order cheap plavix but he was also involved in many shady undertakings with Israel. Order cheap plavix The current patriarch, order cheap plavix Irineos, order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix This is the case of the prominent Palestinian Christian clergyman, order cheap plavix Abdullah Hanaa. Order cheap plavix On the 13th of November 2009, order cheap plavix Theofilos removed Abdullah from his position as the deputy head from the Orthodox Church. Order cheap plavix This resulted in widespread condemnation from the Palestinian Greek Orthodox Community, order cheap plavix 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, order cheap plavix representing 19 groups, order cheap plavix protested at the Greek Orthodox Church's involvement with the Israeli State and the removal of Abdullah Hanaa from his position. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix Far from collaborating with the Israeli entity, order cheap plavix the struggle against the occupation should unite not only the different Christian Churches, order cheap plavix but also the Muslim community. Gaza Baptist Church ceiling falling downConclusion According to Hanna Massad, order cheap plavix pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, order cheap plavix "The last 5 years have been very difficult for all the Palestinians - Muslims and Christians". Order cheap plavix Gaza Baptist Church is one of only three churches serving the 4, order cheap plavix000 Christians living among the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million inhabitants. Order cheap plavix Hanna explains how the siege united the community. Order cheap plavix Because of the lack of basic food, order cheap plavix Christian charities have provided food for families, order cheap plavix 99% of which are Muslim. Order cheap plavix During the 2009 bombings, order cheap plavix "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, order cheap plavix whether in the Occupied Territories or inside Israel itself, order cheap plavix are experiencing daily injustices at the hands of oppressive and discriminatory policies imposed on them by the Israeli government. Order cheap plavix 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. Order cheap plavix It is indeed hard to be Palestinian Christian. Order cheap plavix But it is equally hard being a Palestinian Muslim. It is hard simply being a Palestinian. Order cheap plavix Original article found at: http://www.uruknet.de/?p=m67381&hd=&size=1&l=e