“Let us work together to replace despair with HOPE, fear with human SECURITY and humiliation with DIGNITY”

Holy Land Christians need peace

War and violence threaten the 2,000-year witness of Holy Land Christians, said the editor of America magazine.

War and violence threaten the 2,000-year witness of Holy Land Christians, said the editor of America magazine.

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, an expert on Middle East affairs who formerly directed the U.S. bishops’ office of International Justice and Peace, said the Christian presence in Israel as well as in neighboring countries is dwindling as people seek safety, security and the freedom to practice their faith.

“The Christians have endured for centuries and we can expect they will endure, but it’s not going to be easy,” Father Christiansen told the First Friday Forum of Lorain County.

“The effect of conflict on these ancient churches is very evident,” he said. “The need for peace is the only solution.”

Father Christiansen today, however, finds that lasting peace is a distant prospect unless the United States changes the way it views the conflicts in the region.

While the administration of President George W. Bush did push for an end to the five-week Israeli siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002, the White House did little to end last summer’s Israeli push into Lebanon to weed out Hezbollah insurgents but largely harmed civilians, the Jesuit said.

“The U.S., on the whole, has not been an honest broker,” he said.

At the same time, the priest explained, efforts at inter-church dialogue over the last 20 years have brought the Eastern Catholic churches of the region together. Among them are the Melkite, Maronite, Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Catholic churches.

But the Palestinian intifada that started in September 2000 and led to years of violence with Israelis helped force more Christians out of Bethlehem, Father Christiansen said.

Since then the Israeli government has implemented a series of security measures to protect Jewish settlers on the West Bank while making life more difficult for Palestinians, Muslim and Christian alike, he said.

Add the war in Iraq, which has forced half of that country’s 1.5 million Christians to flee to Syria and Jordan, and Christians in the region are facing great difficulties, the priest said.

The solution, Father Christiansen believes, is the same that many advocates of peace in the region have sought for years – a two-state arrangement, allowing for a Palestinian homeland alongside of Israel with an agreement to end the violence on both sides.

Father Christiansen called for the U.S. to reduce its “footprint” in the region and for other countries to be invited to the negotiating table. “We have just made a shambles of everything we touch in the Middle East,” he said.

Among the issues on the table would be economic development for Palestinians, the security of Israel and the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

Father Christiansen urged Catholics in the United States to learn more about the conflicts in the region so they can help influence U.S. policy by approaching their congressional representatives to urge a diplomatic solution to the hostilities.

2016-10-24T07:29:00+00:00 March 22nd, 2007|Categories: News|