- I am not an expert on the Middle East, especially the situation between Israel and Palestine.
- I am all in favor of standing with Israel against her enemies. I believe God blesses those who bless Israel.
- Any sovereign nation (or group of people for that matter) has a right to defend themselves.
- My thoughts on all this are a work in progress.
With that said, I am concerned how quickly evangelical Christians in the United States are to unquestionably support Israel in her continued conflict against the Palestinians. Israel does have the right to defend herself and they have shown considerable restraint up to this point, but does standing with Israel mean the Israeli government can do no wrong? Is standing with the government of Israel the same as obeying the biblical mandate to stand with Israel? Can Israel (the government) do no wrong? Am I suppossed to ignore all the stories of the apartheid like oppression imposed by the Israeli government its people?
I don’t know the answer.
(for sake of balance, watch this video by conservative Dennis Prager)
My purpose in this post is to write about the forgotten people in this struggle. My purpose here is to bring some attention to the Palestinian Christians who are being killed and overlooked in the entire conflict. I want to stand with Israel, but I believe I am more obligated to stand with my brothers and sisters, the Palestinian Christians, who are innocently being killed in this seemingly endless conflict.
Did you know there are over 400,000 Palestinian Christians in the world; that’s 6.5% of all Palestinians! About 50,000 of these believers live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and our direct descendants of the first Christians. All total, about 14% of all Arabs living in Israel are Christians. These brothers and sisters in Christ belong to 15 different denominations; 51% are Greek Orthodox, 32% are Catholic, a small percentage are Coptic. “Some smaller denominations, such as the Copts who are originally from Egypt, do not number more than a score of families. Yet each denomination or community maintains a rich tradition of rites and rituals…” (Palestinian Christians: Challenges and Hopes)
Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are poor and feel persecuted. They believe they are being persecuted by Muslims, Jews, and American Christians “whom they say love the Jews and Jewish Christians but turn a blind eye to them and their suffering” (Palestinian Christians). Worse than being poor and persecuted are the feelings of being abandoned and forgotten by the larger Christian world. Believers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will tell you that while millions of Christians from the United States have traveled to Israel, very few have reached out to them. It is not financial support they desire from American Christians, it is fellowship and prayer and understanding.
(Here is a link to a recent interview of a pastor in Gaza discussing the effects of the attacks on them by the Israelis.)
Israeli extremists and settlers have longed vandalized churches and monasteries in the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories. In most cases the government does not investigate and rarely is anyone arrested. While we in the U.S. stand with the government of Israel, the government of Israel does little to protect the Palestinian Christians. And as things escalate, so do the attacks against the Christians.
Did you know that less than 2% of the population of Israel are Christians? The number of Palestinian Christians fleeing Israel has greatly increased in recent years. The majority of those leaving say their reason for leaving is because of the oppression they were living under at the hands of the Israeli government.
(Check this out, “Challenging the Evangelical Bias Against Palestinians”)
Let me repeat, I do not claim to be an expert in everything going on in the Middle East. My concern is that the evangelical church in America may be once again siding on an issue that is far more complex than we realize and that is resulting in harming our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am also concerned with how quickly many evangelicals seem to want to go to war and kill people in defense of Israel, even when those caught in the cross-fire are fellow Christians.
Recently, an Arab Christian friend of mine said to me, “We should never forget that if we decide to (unconditionally) support Israel then we are deciding to kill members of Jesus’ body, we are deciding to leave Christian children orphans and lonely. We are deciding to go to war against people who are in need of our love, who are in need of our prayers, who need to hear the good news of Jesus. I believe if we are saying that God is ordering us to support Israel then we are giving up on our most important mission which is saving people through spreading the good news of God.” You don’t have to agree with everything my Arab Christian friend said, but you do need to listen to him. His perspective does need to be heard.
Please stop and think and pray for our brothers and sisters caught in the middle of the conflict in Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
(Here is a statement on the present conflict released on Nov. 19, 2012 by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine.)
(Check out this website, kairospalestine)
(Like “Palestinian Christians” on facebook)
(“Keep Your Eye on Palestine” – a prophetic song by Larry Norman)
Again, I repeat, my purpose in this post is to simply give a voice (however small) to our brothers and sisters in Palestine who have been forgotten by us in the States. They need our prayers and support.