One is struck by the indignity of Australian Christians who conveniently drop from their memory tales of oppression experienced by there Palestinian Christian compatriots. Why conveniently you may ask.
One is struck by the indignity of Australian Christians who conveniently drop from their memory tales of oppression experienced by there Palestinian Christian compatriots. Why conveniently you may ask:
I never forget the time when an Anglo-Christian missionary and I engaged in a conversation on a bus trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem prior to the 1967 War. As a Christian born in Bethlehem, I resonated how privileged I was to proclaim the honour of my birthplace. Gasping with a subdued expression he muttered ” and when exactly did you convert to Christianity!”
“Having survived the test, it has been much like mission impossible for me to reveal that our ‘native’ Christian beliefs are not due to missionary work nor conversions from Muslim beliefs at the times of the Crusades. Palestinian Christian churches and their communities have dotted the Holy land since the time of Christ. . They are as much a generic part of the land as Aboriginals are to Australia.
During the last three weeks Australian public and religious papers alike have failed to acknowledge the presence of Palestinian Christian Arabs; preferring instead the resurrection of cultural, historical and religious divides between Muslims and Jews. A total of 400, 000 Palestinian Christians worldwide (approximately 7% of the total Palestinian population) received no mention; not in the electronic media, nor in popular or academic discourse. The sense of betrayal has been no less than that perpetuated by Judas.
Why conveniently! Because the politics of omission has served its architects in making their subjects endure historical stereotypes and religious misnomers which the Anglo media and churches forced on them, and made them pay the price for their guilt feelings beginning with WWII atrocities.
As the Christian Palestinian community is destroyed through desperation, forced emigration and spiritual dissolution their churches have become “authentic” caretakers for the touristic museums sans worshippers. (Analyse this, before l967 the Sunday service at my Lutheran church in Bethlehem attracted 800 worshippers; today only 25 maintain the tradition.)
As the remaining Palestinian Christians manage to halt emigration and strengthen themselves, through consolidation with Muslim Palestinians under a nationalist umbrella, unsympathetic and unavailing Western missionaries will find themselves with no pastoral role to play.
The holy sites and monuments cluttering about them like limpets no doubt give the land salience to pilgrim (Western) Christians. For us ‘native’ Christians, the continued presence of fellow worshippers living in the land, whether or not in association with these sites, is our last breath of life.
We still find it hard to forgive failure of pilgrim Christians to resist Western propaganda war against “native” Christian population. Just like our Muslim neighbours, we see the collusion of pilgrim Christians as a continuation of long standing crusaders march. After all, it was largely the churches in the West, particularly Australian, which batted for the liberation of the oppressed Christian population in East Timor, Ireland and South African.
Perhaps it is more convenient to remain silent to the injustices perpetrated against Palestinian Christians. We ought not forget though that reconciliation demands repair, and just peace requires speaking out against injustice. Its time out for Australian Christians to reach out for their Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
Abe W. Ata (Dr)