On Saturday, October 25, 2008, at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s (HCEF) 10th International Conference, Wadie Abunassar, founder and director of the International Center for Consultations (ICC) in Israel, took center stage to deliver a talk titled, “Arab Christians in Regional Context.”

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The panel elaborated the current status of Arab Christians in the Holy Land, and speculated on ways their living conditions could be improved, including dialogue opportunities within and across cultural and religious spheres. Abunassar provided a clear lens for understanding an issue few people understand. Introducing Abunasser was William Yontz, HCEF Chairman of the Board.

“In summer 1993 I participated at the World Youth Day of the universal Catholic Church, which was held then in Denver, Colorado,” Abunasser began. “During a presentation that I held there on the reality of Arab Christians in Israel I introduced myself as being an Arab, an Israeli and a Christian simultaneously. An American man from the audience stood up and wondered: ‘if you are Arab, you must be Muslim; if you are Israeli, you must be Jew; so how come you claim to be Christian?’”

Abunasser then enumerated figures about the general profile of the Arab Christians in the Holy Land: Arab Christians continue to be considered the most advanced religious community in education. In the year 2006 92% of Arab Christian school graduates were eligible to continue their studies at universities, while this percentage goes down to 88% amongst Jews, 72% among Muslims and 70% among Druze.”


Wadie Abunasser speaks on Arab Christians at HCEF's 10th International Conference

 

Abunasser’s talk explored the historical background, the categories of self-identification, and the issue of “identity crisis,” particularly as it pertains to the broader Israeli-Arab conflict. In offering a hopeful solution to the crisis, Abunasser surmised, “[F]urther efforts must be made, at least by some if not all the traditional churches of the Holy Land, to inform Christians about their cultural and religious heritage as well as to teach them how to act as a struggling minority while maintaining a solid identity of their own. Preferably, this identity should be based on a solid Christian faith and include the preservation of their Arab culture and ethnicity as well as their integration into Israeli society through their active participation in the task of building up this society along with their Jewish, Muslim and Druze compatriots.”