Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sonja Corbitt

2/7/2014 (1 year 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. 

Highlights

By Sonja Corbitt

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/7/2014 (1 year 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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Middle East

Twisted ISIS video shows militants executed by men in notorious orange jumpsuits Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Islamic State militants were captured and slaughtered on camera by a rebel group in Syria. The members of the rebel group were clad in orange jumpsuits, usually worn by ISIS prisoners and led 13 shackled jihadis to their deaths. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic ... continue reading


GRISLY FIRST: Islamic State beheads women for acts of 'sorcery' in Syria Watch

Image of The Islamic State has previously stoned women to death on allegations of adultery. The Observatory says the latest instances were the first time it was aware of the group beheading women.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It was a heinous new low for the terror group Islamic State. There are reports from Syria that the jihadists have now beheaded two women for acts of what they describe as "sorcery." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These heinous acts are reportedly the first ... continue reading


Amazing discovery of ancient Roman soldier's footprints found in Israel Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The ancient, fortified city of Hippos-Sussita in Israel, located in the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, has surprised archeologists with a new addition to their host of history-defining discoveries. Director Michael Eisenberg, the excavation's director announced ... continue reading


ISIS shocks by beheading women for the first time ever Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

ISIS is known all over the world for their radical cruelty and use of rapid executions. Now, the jihadi militants have carried out yet another act of brutality, beheading two women in Syria, who they accused of "sorcery," according to activist reports. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


HISTORIC - Vatican signs treaty with 'State of Palestine' in hopes of promoting peace Watch

Image of Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher along with Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki, signed a peace treaty recognizing the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher along with Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki, signed a peace treaty recognizing the "State of Palestine." Signed in a ceremony in the Vatican, the goal is that the recognition will promote peace with Israel - as well ... continue reading


Women, children among the 120 civilians killed in Islamic State takeover of Kobane Watch

Image of The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London said many of the dead were in their homes killed by rocket attacks. Others were struck down by sharp shooters as they tried to run away.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Re-entering the Syrian city of Kobane, long held up as a symbol of Kurdish resistance, Islamic State indiscriminately shot and killed dozens of women and children in a 24-hour period. The death toll hovers around 120, but that number may rise. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Is there an AIDs epidemic in Syria? Islamic State fighter donated infected blood which has spread to several other fighters Watch

Image of An Indonesian man, infected with AIDs, donated blood to the Islamic State, and was executed for it.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Indonesian Islamic State fighter who was infected with AIDs has been executed by the Islamic State after he was accused of knowingly passing on the disease through blood donations. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The currently unknown Indonesian man ... continue reading


Two men brutally flogged by Islamic State for breaking Ramadan rules Watch

Image of The two men are shown kneeling in front of a group of ISIS commanders. One of the commanders is seen carrying a large whip.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two men accused of breaking the fast during Ramadan are shown being brutally flogged by Islamic State soldiers in a new series of shocking photographs. LOS ANGELES, Ca (Catholic Online) - As released by the Islamic State Information Office of the State of the ... continue reading


Positive 'happy' Syrian social media campaign #SummerInSyria gathers shocking, heartbreaking images of dead children instead Watch

Image of Syria has been hit hard with a civil war over the last four years.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Summer in Syria online campaign, using the hashtag #SummerInSyria was meant to gather positive images of experiences in the country, despite four years of gruesome civil war. However, instead of gathering positive feedback from social media users, the #SummerInSyria ... continue reading


Kurdish militia sits north of Islamic State capital, awaiting Syrian offensive Watch

Image of So far the only group that has proved capable at defeating the Islamic State has been the Kurdish militias of Iraq and Syria.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While Kurdish militia units have had some recent success in their fight for survival against the Islamic State in northern Syria, a leader with the militia says they have no intention of attacking the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa, and such an offensive should ... 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, Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29
1 When Isaac had grown old, and his eyes were so weak ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 135:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! Praise the name of Yahweh, you who serve ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-17
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 4th, 2015 Image

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
July 4: Elizabeth was a Spanish princess who was given in marriage to ... 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