Zuhair Madanat, a First Theology Seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, moderated the first panel on “Palestinian Christians: Persecuted on All Sides.” With the burning of churches and holy places, such as the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish, and the new threat by ISIS, which has threatened to “purify” Jerusalem if Christians do not leave the sacred city, the panel examined the conditions affecting Palestinian Christians and looked to signs of hope for the future.
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor & Director, Cytogenetics Lab, Palestine Museum of Natural History, Bethlehem University, stated that “living in Palestine takes sacrifices and Christians leave not because of economic reasons but because of political reasons.” Reporting on some of the horrors taking place in the Holy Land, Dr. Qumsiyeh explained that “we Palestinian Christians called for action, for example, via Kairos Palestine.” Kairos Palestine is an organization of Palestinian Christians who call on Christians around the world to counter the occupation.
Father Michael McDonagh, International Advisor to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said that Palestinian Christians feel betrayed and are suffering. Many have addressed their tough circumstances by emigrating. For Fr. McDonagh, the main reason for emigration is that Palestinian Christians “have been and continue to be treated as non-people. Human dignity is robbed, land is confiscated, economic opportunities are severely limited, and political realities exert tremendous pressure.” While Fr. McDonagh recognized the economic and political difficulties and the strong inclination to escape them, he instructed that “the element of divine vocation—call—must feature high on Christian’s mind, if we want to keep a Christian presence in the Holy Land.” He pointed to HCEF as an opportunity to answer that call.