Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sonja Corbitt

2/7/2014 (2 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In their own words, many Christians in the area say it is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence

Religious extremism contributes to the persecution and elimination of Coptic Christians from the Middle East. But we must not single out Islamic extremists as the sole threat to Christian presence in the area. It is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence. 

Article Highlights

By Sonja Corbitt

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/7/2014 (2 months ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Coptic Christians, religious persecution, separation wall, apartheid wall, Muslim extremism, Israeli occupation, Zionism, Christian extinction, Holy Land


NASHVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) -"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

Although it has fallen largely on deaf ears, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has made some news, especially in Christian circles. I have written on the circumstances there, myself, and about how Muslim extremism is the main cause of escalating emigration, the destruction of Coptic churches, and the approaching extinction of Christians in the region. 

Recently, however, my view of the problem was carefully challenged by a Catholic brother whose vocation is intimately involved with the difficulties in the Middle East. I began to research the topic much more thoroughly, even speaking to Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. With a heavy heart I must confess I was wrong about a great many matters, and am guilty of ignorantly contributing to the real problem by spreading what amounts to propaganda.

When asked directly about the causes for the emigration and elimination of Christians from the area, Israeli and Palestinian Christians overwhelmingly indicate that the primary causes are political and economic conditions, not religious extremism. 87.3% of the respondents in a 2006 study of 1500 Christian families in Palestine and Israel said the same. Only 8% attributed emigration to religious extremism (pg. 34, Sabeel survey with Bethlehem University). The truth, it seems, is that religious extremism contributes, but not in the way I previously thought. More on that in a moment.

In their own words, many Christians in the area say it is not the movement of Muslims into the area or Islamic violence, but brutal economic conditions that proceed from the political climate between Israel and Palestine that are forcing Christians to leave and inciting violence. 

Most of the land taken by Israeli settlement expansion belonged to Palestinian Christians, including the seizure of lands belonging to the Convent of Cremisan. The Separation Wall, built under the guise of security, physically split Christian families and closed Christian businesses. 

Against an exhortation for Israel to reconsider by the USCCB and brother bishops all over the world, the Wall devoured land privately owned by indigenous Christian people, split a Salesian religious community offering services and ministering there in two, and illegally confiscated and destroyed Christian vineyards and olive groves held and cultivated by Christians for generations. 

In addition to the Wall, the Israeli occupation and its security checkpoint and permit system greatly restricts Christian movement, especially to Jerusalem and other Christian holy sites. My Catholic brother shared that a group of Christians he was with at Christmas was uncomfortable with their worship at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem because the tension and scrutiny was so thick.  

Israel's separation Wall, illegal confiscation of Palestinian land, policies that violate freedom, and its brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests have decimated the economic stability of the entire area and pushed not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians. 

Candidly, to the Palestinian Christians there the Wall is a big "push factor" for forcing Palestinians out of Palestine, many of whom are Christian. But Muslims leave as well. According to one of the Palestinian Christians I spoke with, religious violence from Jewish settlers has also made the lives of Palestinian Muslims miserable and intolerable.

Such Israeli activity prompted the heads of the Catholic churches in the Holy Land last year to label it unjust and meet with Pope Francis about the extent of Israeli oppression and the suffering of Christians there. At the time the Wall was still being considered, they also called for the realignment of its plan in accordance with international law, pointing out to the Israeli decision-makers that "illegal seizure of lands in no way serves the cause of peace, nor does it support the moderate position that opts for non-violence." 

The churches spoke prophetically. Blatant, chronic injustice and instability causes anxiety, discouragement, despair, and retaliation. Israel and her allies in the world blame Islam, and militant Muslim terrorists everywhere use the accusation to retaliate. Palestinian Christians beg us not to "exploit [their] sufferings to fuel some islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam. Indeed, this is what the Israeli occupation persistently tries to do. It demonizes Islam in a way that deflects blame from the repression levied by the state itself."  

Religious extremism contributes, but we must not single out Islamic extremists as the sole threat to Christian presence in the area. According to Palestinian Christians, there are also Jewish extremists represented by what they call "religious and racist" settlers on the West Bank. They maintain that they are encouraged directly by the Israeli government and by, in their words, "Christian extremists represented by Western Christians that support Israel blindly and unconditionally." 

With candor they maintain that these last two groups are a greater threat to Christians in the Middle East than the Muslim extremists, because they have more money, military power, and clout to uproot all Palestinian presence, both Christian and Muslim, from their homeland.

To be fair, it is also widely known in the region that without Israeli control, the area would undoubtedly degenerate into factious religious wars within a decade or so. The issues are too intricately complicated to support easy answers. But no real peace can or will ever come from the injustice perpetrated on the area by some aspects of current Israeli methodology.

The most heartbreaking bit I learned about the situation and suffering of our Catholic Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East was this statement from a Palestinian Christian leader: "We are no longer expecting support from Church leaders around the world. Our Hope, Faith and Love come from elsewhere. Palestinian Christians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice in our home."

Supporting links: http://www.sabeel.org/news.php?eventid=213

http://www.fosna.org/content/kairos-palestine-response-arch-rowan-williams

----- 

Sonja Corbitt is a Scriptural evangelist, Bible study author, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Although fully booked for the next six months, visit pursuingthesummit.com to book Sonja for your next great event, or to order her Bible study Soul of the World, on the Scriptural "whys" of Catholic faith and practice, available as a 10-week DVD-driven Bible study or a 12-week small group fellowship Bible study. .  

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Middle East

Palestinian Christians prevented from Easter pilgrimage to Jerusalem since 1967 Watch

Image of Israel issues some permits to both Christians and Muslims during religious holidays, but this can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. Permits are usually issued to older, married Palestinians.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Palestinian Christians feel the sting of segregation acutely during Holy Week. Strict, Israeli restrictions on movement prevents their access to holy sites in nearby Jerusalem. Many holy sites have remained out of reach in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since ... continue reading


BIGGEST IN THE WORLD: Saudi Arabia determined to build world's tallest building Watch

Image of High winds will also be a problem for this gargantuan building, so the tower will change shape regularly to counter it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Not be outdone, Saudi Arabia is vowing to build the world's tallest building. Said structure, called the Kingdom Tower, heads into construction next week. AT its height, 3,280 feet, it will eventually dwarf Dubai's Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,716 feet, the ... continue reading


AL-QAEDA ALIVE: 'We must eliminate the cross ... The bearer of the cross is America!' Watch

Image of  In the video, the nefarious

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"This is quite an extraordinary video," terrorist experts Paul Cruickshank says. There's another word for it: absolutely horrifying. In the video, the nefarious "crown prince" of al-Qaeda, Nasir al-Wuhayshi is seen addressing a group of 100 like-minded ... continue reading


Suffering, dying in silence: Syrian Christians face arduous holy week Watch

Image of Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus says that Syrian Christians face a seemingly endless Way of the Cross, with many suffering and dying in silence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The assassination of Dutch Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt, shot to death by an unknown assailant at his base in Homs, Syria on April 7 has cast a pall for the faithful here. Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus says that Syrian Christians face a ... continue reading


Asia Bibi remains in prison, reluctant officials hide behind bureaucracy Watch

Image of Asia Bibi remains in prison, judges unwilling to take up her case for fear of violence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman facing death for blasphemy in Pakistan still sits in a women's prison her case held up by deliberate delays and a reluctance of judges and others to hear her case. Officials are afraid that they will become targets of Islamic ... continue reading


Dutch priest beaten, killed at his Syrian monastery Watch

Image of Father Frans van der Lugt was described as a man of great courage who

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dutch Jesuit priest, 75-year-old Frans van der Lugt was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery in Homs, Syria this week, the Vatican said. He had been living in Syria since the early Seventies. He's being described as man of great courage ... continue reading


Tunisian government strives to root out Islamist influence from Mosques Watch

Image of Tunisia's newly elected government, recognizing that one of the nation's chief sources of revenue is tourism, has wasted little time in quelling extremist factions there.

By Kaci Racelma (Algiers, Algeria)

Tunisian authorities, along with the Islamist party Ennahda had clashed on several levels for any months. The conflict was felt on all strata of Tunisian society. Violence roiled in the streets, to the universities, in places of worship and private homes. ... continue reading


Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes one million mark Watch

Image of U.N. staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new Syrian refugees every day, the UNHCR said.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As Syria's devastating Civil War drags into its fourth year without an end in sight, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has officially passed the one million mark, the United Nations' refugee agency says. Syrian refugees now make up almost a quarter of ... continue reading


Meet Catholic Online's new Middle East correspondent Watch

Image of Kaci Racelma received his Bachelor of English literature in 1996. He has worked in the daily Algerian newspaper la Nouvelle République since 1998.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Journalist Kaci Racelma has joined the Catholic Online family as a much needed and vaunted Middle East correspondent to our international news desk. We welcome his wealth of experience in relaying breaking stories in this complex part of the world.  LOS ... continue reading


Authorities break up kiddie sex abuse ring, 17-year-old pimp and several men arrested Watch

Image of Several hundred women in Israel - many of them foreigners - are trafficked within the country annually for commercial sexual exploitation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tel Aviv Police have arrested seven men in connection with a child molestation ring. An undercover investigation began after one of the purported victims came forward and told them about a number of girls who had sex with a group of adults in exchange for ... continue reading


All Middle East News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Peter 5:5-14
5 In the same way, younger people, be subject to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17
2 for you have said: love is built to last for ever, ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 16:15-20
15 And he said to them, 'Go out to the whole world; ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 25th, 2014 Image

St. Mark
April 25: The second Gospel was written by St. Mark, who, in the New ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter