By Fr. Labib Kobti
SEVERAL ANALYSTS PREDICT THAT 25 YEARS FROM NOW THERE WILL BE NO CHRISTIANS LIVING IN THE HOLY LAND!
THE CHRISTIAN PRESENCE IN THE HOLY LAND IS AN ARAB RESPONSIBILITY, AS WELL IT IS A MUSLIMS AND JEWISH RESPONSIBILITY BESIDE THAT IT IS A CHRISTIANS RESPONSIBILITY.
I- The Holy Land is Palestine, Israel and Jordan.
II- The hardship of the Palestinians is the same for both Muslims and Christians, but the Arab-Christians as a minority finds themselves more vulnerable than their bloodbrothers the Arab-Muslims who form the majority.
III- Christians are not persecuted by their boodbrothers the Muslims in the Occupied Territories or at the Territories under the P.A. The reports that came from the Office of P.M. Netanyaho and from the Christian-Zionists are untrue and lies. On the contrary Christians feel themselves under hardship because of the Israeli Occupation and the policy of Closure and they are emigrating in an alarming scale.
IV- In Fact: The Holy Land and especially in the Occupied Territories by Israel since 1967 and the under the Palestinian Authority see a terrifying decrease in the Christian Presence:
a- When Christians (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants) are about 2.5% in Jordan they are 1.8% in Palestine and Israel.
b- Entire families after the six day war and the Oslo agreement are leaving the Holy Land. Fr. Majdi pastor of Beit-Sahour, Bethlehem, have given the example of his parish Beit-Sahour who lost only in 1998, he said, out of 290 families 63 families who immigrated for good to the USA , Canada and South America. Jerusalem out of 10.000 families some years ago they are now less than 5.000 families. In Bethlehem area Christian are about 25.000 families, when in the USA and South American they are more than 250.000. Several analysts predict that the Holy Land will become a museum of Christian Site with no Christian presence on the year 2025 if the scale of Christian immigration continues and if the Christians of the Holy Land do not find any support for their cause from their Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters from outside.
c- THE REASON behind this alarming situation in Palestine and Israel are:
1- The hardship of the Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank and the weak of law on the territories under the Palestinian Authority.
2- The Closure of the Occupied Territories and the Territories under the PA. Israel do not permit to Palestinians to go to Jerusalem and with great difficulties they connect between the different cities under P.A. The Closure makes it as a big jail for Palestinians
3- An International Monetary Fund study found that the real GNP per capita among Palestinians has fallen 22% since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and stands now at $1.700 annually, one-tenth the Israeli level ($17.000). This was the statistics of the year 1999. Today the Palestinian with the actual israeli governement have lost a lot of theior infrastructures, their olives, lands, work and became the poorest people in the MIddle East.
4- The unemployment went up after the Oslo agreement and specially the last five years from 13% to 31%. Today it is over 75% - 80 % with the actual Israeli governement and their way of curfew and closures.
5- The confiscation of Lands by the Israelis, Houses, Palestinian Ids, demolition of houses, building of Settlement increased after Oslo accords and made the life of the Palestinians impossible. The Christian Minority was the most vulnerable. I have the largest Catholic Palestinian parish in San Francisco. Yes, in San Franciasco, California and not in Palestine
6- When Jews from all over the world are immigrating to Israel and find support from the Jews of all over the world, US Administration, Christian Right wings (Christian-Zionists), Christians of the Holy Land find themselves forgotten and people without hope.
SOME PRACTICAL POINTS TO WORK HAND IN HAND SO AS TO HELP THE CHRISTIANS OF THE HOLY LAND
Education of the Public Opinion on what is the "TRUTH ON THE GROUND OF THE HOLY LAND" is a very important issue to build up our hand in hand work. Justice for the Palestinians is the responsibility of everybody.
1- Call for sistership and partnership between our Churches, Schools, High Schools, colleges and the Churches of the Holy Land and help these institutions to continue their work for more years and years and support the needs of their activities and the upgrading of their buildings and system. The Christian Schools of the Holy Land serve both Christians and Muslims with no difference. Some schools under the P.A introduced Hebrew beside Arabic and English. To help in this please write to Fr. Labib Kobti (priest from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
2- When promoting pilgrimage to the Holy land, insist that they use an Arab- Palestinian agents, guides, Hotels, Buses, and include a visit to a Living Stone community of the Holy Land (An Arab Christian Community) to listen to and pray with. For any help on this, please contact us on Al-Bushra.
3- Promote Ecumenical volunteering, youth meetings, Church Leaders meetings, Journalist expeditions to the Holy Land. We can help you to contact some people of your choice. Contact Al-Bushra.
4- Support The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Email to Mr. Rateb Rabie .This Foundation (HCEF) is a non profit organization. Her intent is to maintain a Christian presence in the Holy Land. They fund many activities related to the needs of the people of the Holy Land. To get more infomation write to HCEF P.O.Box 6687, Silver Spring, MD 20906, or please Email Mr. Rateb Rabie
5- Support the existing work in the USA or anywhere in the World that promote Justice, Peace and Truth.
6- Call on our Muslim brothers and sister to recognize the importance of the Christian Presence in Palestine and support what President Arafat have said: "Christians were in Palestine before Muslims, we should support them" and what Dr. Hussein Al-Husseini have always repeated: "We cannot imagine a Holy Land without Christians." An Arab appeal can be also a clear reply to those who have pretended and misinformed the Public Opinion that Christians are persecuted in Palestine. CHRISTIAN PRESENCE IN THE HOLY LAND IS AN ARAB AND MUSLIM RESPONSIBILITY ALSO. Arabs have about 6000 years of history Arab-Christians had 2000 years of History. Arab-Muslims has about 1500 years of History. The COMMONALITY of being Arabs, Palestinians Arab-Muslims and Arab-Christians are suffering the same under Israeli Occupation of their home countries (Holy Land, South Lebanon Golan Heights in Syria). For more information visit our home page
7- Support a needy family or the Christian and cultural education of one or more of their children. Al-Bushra can help you.
8- Support the housing projects for new couples in the Holy Land.
9- Explore the possibility to make connections with business men and women and invite them to invest in the Holy Land and create jobs for Palestinians and specially for Christians.
10- Provide money to buy houses, lands for the Christians and invite the Palestinians Christians of outside to invest in Palestine, to share with their brothers and sisters inside Palestine and think seriously to return back to their home land Palestine.
Please help us with other practical ways to help. Click here
If you think that you can help. Please write us back.