An Interview with Rateb Rabie by the Malaysian National News Agency WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Bernama) — “I’m Khader Abu Saad, 12 years old. I live in Beit Jala near Bethlehem. I’m a student in 6th grade. I hope there will be peace in my country. There is a lot killed in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and in all of Palestine. We can’t leave Beit Jala because we haven’t another place to go.”
Hany Saad, a 16-year-old from Beit Jala writes, “When the Intifada began, the situation got worse and worse. Every day innocent people are killed or arrested, and treated like animals because they tried to protect their land.”
Another letter to a sponsor in Washington came from Ameer Abed Rabbo Rabbo who writes: “I want to thank you for choosing me. I live in Beit Jala. I have two brothers and one sister. I have a beautiful mother and a hard working father. We are living day to day in all matters. We are alive today but nobody knows what happens tomorrow. Houses are being shelled every day. I can’t study. I can’t play. I can’t have candy. I am so afraid to sleep at night, but I have God with me all the time. He will never give up on me, and you choosing me is proof. Thank you.”
Whether these children are Muslims or Christians — they all live in fear every single day of their homes being bombed or bulldozed by Israeli soldiers.
FOUNDATION KEEPS HOPE ALIVE
Despite years of oppression and bloodshed it is amazing to see that these children are hanging on to a thread of hope and their faith in God remain unshakable.
President of the Maryland-based Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Rateb Yacoub Rabie, in an interview here said that his foundation tries to keep the hope alive by getting Americans to sponsor a child in Palestine.
Money collected is used to assist private Christian schools in the occupied territories, which are attended by some 15,000 Christian and Muslim children hungry for education.
“Kids are killed by the Israeli army. People are scared. Schools are opened one day and closed the next. The situation is unbelievable,” says Rabie in frustration.
Rabie says the foundation’s mission include educating Americans about the situation in Palestine, and maintaining the presence of Christians in the Holy Land. Mass migration to Western countries and deaths have dwindled their population from a high of 18 percent in 1948 to less than 2 percent today or roughly 300,000.
“The Israelis through its occupation and oppression have made it into a war between Judaism and Islam. But it’s not – it’s a war between Jews and Arabs. The Christians are in the same boat as the Muslims,” says Rabie.
“Our goal is to share Jerusalem among the three faiths. Christians, Muslims and Jews should share the holy area.”
CITY OF THREE FAITHS
However, he says, the mainstream Christians in America, ignorant about the situation in Palestine, give their support to Israel not realising that “it’s all about politics not religion”.
According to Rabie, the Zionist right wing movement is selling the idea to Christians that they would go to heaven if they support the state of Israel.
“God is not in the real estate business. God does not favour one race over the other,” says Rabie, an American of Palestinian descent.
On the prospect for peace in West Asia, Rabie says bluntly, “there is no hope for peace as long as he (Ariel Sharon] is in power.”
Sharon, he says, is a war criminal responsible for the Sabra and Shattila massacre in Lebanon. “He’s doing everything to irritate the Arabs.
What he’s doing will not bring peace. He does not want peace. There’s no hope for peace as long as he’s around.”
On the Palestinian suicide bombers, Rabie says there are extremism on both sides. Occupation and oppression tend to breed extremism.
The foundation is holding a two-day conference from October 18 in Washington on the plight of Arab Christians in the occupied territories.
Conference participants are scheduled to discuss “Zionist Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza,” as well as economic support programmes in the occupied territories.
Rabie says he is pessimistic about coverage for the conference by the American media because of their bias towards Israel.