The following essay was written in 2006 by Dr. Abe W. Ata, a Palestinian Christian who was born in Bethlehem. I read it once before, but was reminded of it a couple days ago when my friend, Mark Church, shared it on Facebook. Whether or not one agrees with every word Dr. Ata says, it’s instructive to hear his perspective and it’s good for Christians to be made aware of how many of their brothers and sisters in Christ are being affected by the dire situation in Israel/Palestine, a situation that has become even more heart-breaking in recent days.
The Palestinian Christian is an endangered species.
When the modern state of Israel was established there were about 400,000 of us. Two years ago the number was down to 80,000. Now it’s down to 60,000. At that rate, in a few years there will be none of us left. When this happens non-Christian groups will move into our churches and claim them for ever.
I fear that when/if the last Palestinian Christian leaves, extreme groups will move instantly to our churches and schools and have a field day hatching world plots. It would be too late for Bush (or Kerry) to do anything about it!!
Palestinian Christians within Israel fare little better. On the face of it, their number has grown by 20,000 since 1991. But this is misleading, for the census classification “Christian” includes some 20,000 recent non-Arab migrants from the former Soviet Union.
So why are Palestinian Christians abandoning their homeland?
We have lost hope, that’s why. We are treated as non-people. Few outside the Middle East even know we exist, and those who do, conveniently forget.
I refer, of course, to the American Religious Right. They see modern Israel as a harbinger of the Second Coming, at which time Christians will go to Paradise, and all others (presumably including Jews) to Hell. To this end they lend military and moral support to Israel.
Even by the double-dealing standards of international diplomacy this is a breathtakingly cynical bargain. It is hard to know who is using whom more:
|The Christian Right for offering secular power in the expectation that the Jewish state will be destroyed by a greater spiritual one; or|
|The Israeli Right for accepting their offer.|
What we do know is that both sides are abusing the Palestinians. Apparently we don’t enter into anyone’s calculations.
The views of the Israeli Right are well known: they want us gone.
Less well known are the views of the American Religious Right. Strangely, they find the liberation of Iraqis from a vile dictator just, but do not find it unjust for us to be under military occupation for 38 long years.
Said Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):
“God Appeared to Abraham and said: ‘I am giving you this land,’ the West Bank. This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.’”
Inhofe must have got it wrong. Promises are being made to earthly Jerusalem, that again, God did not make! For Paul wrote that the Holy Land was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. These are the Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Jews, who have been living in the land for thousands of years. The Bible never mentioned that God promised it solely to Jews. Anyone can be a Jew, but not anyone can be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. James Inhofe and followers are unable to tell the difference between Jew, Israelite, and Israel.
It is very clear, that in Israel, there will be no continuing city!
|(Hebrews-13-13-14) Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His Reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek on to come!|
|His Promise to Abraham! (Hebrews-11-10) For he looked for a City which has foundations (Christ The Foundation) whose builder and maker is God!|
|(16) Now they desire a better Country, that is, An Heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He HAS prepared for them a City!|
Heavenly Jerusalem, of Heavenly Israel!!
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) was even more forthright:
“I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank…I happen to believe that the Palestinians should leave.”
There is a phrase for this: Ethnic cleansing.
Silencing us, from seeking your support and enlightening you about our suffering, goes counter to what Jesus has mandated us to do. We all know that Muslims and Jews get ceaseless support (political, spiritual and financial) consecutively from Saudi Arabia and America respectively; We, the Palestinian Christians, get nothing from the Australian and other Western “Christian” governments. (The Pope has been an exception.)
Prior to the 1967 war, the Christian youth at the Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist and other churches in Bethlehem used to pray and rejoice and have a good chat with hundreds of American Christian pilgrims. In particular Texas and California were two places from where many came from to visit us in the Holy Land. Today only fading memories prevail. Christian families have vacated Bethlehem. The remaining Christians are paying the price by experiencing curfews which last for weeks. They remain sandwiched between Muslims and Jews without drawing the slightest concern from the many so-called Western Christians.
So why do American Christians stand by while their leaders advocate the expulsion of fellow Christians? Could it be that they do not know that the Holy Land has been a home to Christians since, well … since Christ?
Do not think I am asking for special treatment for Christians. Ethnic cleansing is evil whoever does it and to whomever it is done. Palestinian Christians — Anglican, Maronite Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Armenians, Baptists, Copts and Assyrians — have been rubbing shoulders with each other and with other religions: – Muslims, Jews, Druze and (most recently) Baha’is – for centuries. And we want to do so for centuries more. But we can’t if we are driven out by despair.
We are equally frightened by those who commit suicide bombings. None of us Christians have condoned it or even contemplated the idea. Our commitment to Jesus’ teachings will never shake our resolve in this matter.
American journalist Anders Strindberg makes a clearer conclusion. He says Palestinians are equated with Islamists, Islamists with terrorists. Presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent, the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines. Suicide bombers sell more copies [sic] than people who congregate for Bible study.
What we seek is support: material, moral, political and spiritual. As Palestinians we grieve for what we have lost, and few people (the Ashkenazi Jews are one) have lost more than us (the Ashkenazi Jews are one). But grief can be assuaged by the fellowship of friends.
From his bio: “Prof. Abe W. Ata was a temporary delegate to the UN in 1970 and has lived and worked in the Middle East, America and Australia. Dr Ata is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Advancement of Research, and lectures in Psychology at the Australian Catholic University. Dr Ata is a 9th generation Christian Palestinian academic born in Bethlehem.”
6 thoughts on “The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed (An Essay by Abe W. Ata)”
What exactly does he want to happen? I find the date of this article interesting, being from 2006, and how he mentions the “liberation” of Iraq. Look at current events in Iraq and the plight of Iraqi Christians today in 2014.
The biggest threat to Palestinian Christianity isn’t the policies of Israel or America, it’s the policies of Islam. I don’t care what America or Israel does; so long as Islam dominates the Palestinian people and the Middle East, there will be constant bloodshed and danger.
What happened when Noah boarded the Ark, when Lot left Sodom, when the Christians fled Jerusalem? I am not a prophet, merely a student of Bible history. Islam is currently in the process of crushing and driving out all of Christianity from the Middle East. To my brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East, I urge you to forget your ancestral homeland, forget the coat back in your house and do whatever it takes to get out of there NOW!
Let all those who want to die for Jerusalem duke it out, and the last one standing can have that patch of dirt. My mother is the heavenly Jerusalem, the place in which righteousness dwells and where there is no more death.
Sadly, 7 years later nothing has changed for the better for our brothers and sisters caught in this mess, especially our Palestinian brethren, but only gotten worse.
Steve i’m sorry, but i disagree with your comment:
“The biggest threat to Palestinian Christianity isn’t the policies of Israel or America…”
US policies and the American media have been and continue to support war crimes against the Palestinian people, some of them Christians. True, there use to be a larger Christian population in the area, but sadly may have either been killed during one or more of these needless wars, or they have fled the region when it was still possible.
Thankfully i don’t depend on the American media and accounts for news in the middle east. There are journalist outside America who are going to the region, returning and telling the truth. Award winning journalist Jon Snow is one such journalist.
pjmiller, if the biggest threat to Palestinian Christians are “Israeli war crimes” and not Islam, then what about the state of Egyptian Christians, or Syrian Christians, or Iraqi Christians, or Iranian Christians, or Pakistani Christians, or… ?
To ask the question is to answer the question.
Why are there such high casualty rates among the Palestinians? Could it be because they hide their rockets in schools? Because they use women and children as shields? I know, I know, that is all “Jewish propaganda and lies,” except the same exact tactics are used by islamic forces against America in our conflicts, too. I guess our soldiers are in on the scam, too, eh?
The truth is, Palestinian mommies sew up “cute” little suicide bomber belts for their baby photos. They have shows where guys dressed up as Mickey Mouse extol the virtues of blowing yourself up on a busy street. They do not value life, but they know we do, so they use this against us. THEY bring death upon their own people, to serve the basis for propaganda among those of us who value life. Because some of us who value life cannot accept the fact that, yes, some people are indeed doubly dead even while they yet live (Jude 1:12) and are beyond redemption. How do you make peace with such a people?
Yes, lots of bad things happen in war. Yes, lots of innocents get wounded, killed, and worse. But since when did war become a football game where the winner gets a trophy and the loser gets to walk away? No, real war is life and death. Real war is about wiping out the other side. The God of the Bible understood this (see His commands regarding the conquest of the Holy Land, and again in 70 AD). Would you convict God of war crimes for wiping out entire peoples because they had become hopelessly corrupt and violent?
Under the new covenant, which we (if followers of Jesus) live under, war is seen as an evil. Jesus advocated peace and justice.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” Matt.5:9
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:38-45
This is what we should be advocating for–peace, and praying for both peace and justice, instead of promoting sensationalist one-sided war propaganda. I could reply to your statement of “Palestinian mommies sew up “cute” little suicide bomber belts for their baby photos, etc.” with horror stories concerning war crimes and atrocities committed by the Israeli government. But where would that get us? No where.
Our job is to pray for peace.
Are the US and Israeli policies responsible for what we have watched take place between the Palestinians and Israel, for decades? I say yes they are. The US has stood by (many times alone) and watched Israel intentionally break international laws. This is not justifying the actions of Hamas, but i am saying you can only treat people, the way Israel has treated well over a million Palestinians for decades ( blockades, occupation and military-rule), “just so long” before any people will rebel. While all this has been transpiring, we have the US sending billion$ to Israel, wrongly believing they were supporting a “democracy”. Frankly i don’t think our leaders believe that anymore, but now we have our own personal interests in continuing to allow the Israeli government to be our puppet-master.
Others (dispensationalist Christians) in America believe they ‘must’ support Israel, no matter what it does, for theological reasons. I’m not one of those Christians.
The bottom line is Steve, we each will stand before Jesus one day. I want to hear my Master say to me,
well done daughter, enter in, you were a peace maker who deeply desired and prayed for peace and justice…”and when I was hungry you gave me something to eat, thirsty you gave me something to drink, when I was a stranger you invited me in, in need of clothing you clothed me, when I was sick you looked after me, and when I was in prison you came to visit me.”
If you really want to help Israel, instead of ignoring their part/responsibility in this 65 year conflict/war, pray the lost Israeli’s will recognize Jesus as the Messiah and be saved. That goes for all the lost Palestinians just as well. Jesus died for both. He loves both equally.
In the meantime pray for our brothers and sister in Christ, on both sides of this horrible war.
pjmiller said, “Under the new covenant, which we (if followers of Jesus) live under, war is seen as an evil. Jesus advocated peace and justice.”
“And in righteousness He judges and wages war,” Rev. 19:11. So even in the New Covenant age, Jesus wages war IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. How does Jesus wage righteous war? It is speaking of Jerusalem in 70AD. If you’ve ever read Josephus’ eye witness account, you know that the war Jesus waged was brutal and gruesome to the EXTREME, heaping horror upon horror on every man, woman, and child in Jerusalem.
“But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” Rom. 13:4. So even in the New Covenant age, God has authorized the use of the sword in certain instances to bring wrath upon evil-doers.
John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, & the Apostle Peter all had soldiers under their instruction, and there is NO record of any of them being told to lay down their arms and leave the police/military lifestyle behind. Because the Bible does NOT teach pacifism.
Peace at any cost is not peace. The God of the Bible knows that sometimes, for the sake of real peace, real war must be waged.
Adam thanks for this article, it brings out the sad truth that if man wants something bad enough he will make it happen. One of the things that could help open the eyes of dispensationalist and those who just except their complete devotion to Israel, is the fact that Israel is violating the Word of God by their occupation. An example is Ezekiel 47:23, which states that the gentiles are to have an inheritance among the tribes of Israel and that the Jews are to treat them as if they were fellow Jews…Blessings,Jack.