Reflections from HCEF President/CEO:
Humans are complex and deeply profound beings. The various relationships and traits that we encompass collectively contribute to the essence of who we are. Our faith, family roles, occupations and nationality all work together to shape the richness of our identity and how we fit into this world.
An incredibly important point of identity for Palestinian Christians is our ethnicity which serves as the root of our suffering.
Israel is a Jewish state, so like our Muslim neighbors; we suffer on a daily basis from this ideology of exclusivity. As Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, we wait in line and share the same humiliations at the checkpoints. We live under the same military restrictions of daily life activities, and have lost land and loved ones to the conflict. Within Israel’s domestic borders, we face housing restrictions, as well as a lack of employment and education opportunities.
There has been a trend among some Western Christians to deny us our Palestinian identity, almost putting a virtual ban on the “P” word during dialogues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While we take pride in our affiliation with the Mother Church (e.g., Holy Land Christians), this denial of our Palestinian identity relegates us to becoming silent victims who should remain voiceless about what life is like for us under Occupation.
And unfortunately, in some instances, Western Christians themselves hijack our identity and proclaim themselves as our spokespersons. Often, this is an attempt to further their own political agenda which tends to be focused on creating divisions with the Muslim world and denying that the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has any basis in human rights injustices.
In response to this issue of identity crisis, in 2009, the Palestinian Christian leadership drafted Kairos Palestine, an appeal to our Western Christian brethren to hear our voice on the impact of the Occupation. To recognize that Palestinian suffering under the Israeli military Occupation is a shared experience by both Muslim and Christian neighbors. We asked that we be permitted to express our truth directly and without interference.
In reclaiming our identity, Kairos Palestine also asserts the very special and important role that we Palestinian Christians play in the conflict. We are that much-needed bridge between the East and the West. With strong bonds to our Palestinian Muslim brethren but also strong faith ties to Western Christians, our narrative is one in which both sides can find commonality and sympathize with.
In order to serve as that bridge we must be allowed to express our voice and our true identity without our Western brothers and sisters co-opting or suppressing our message. Whether it is supported or not, it is our truth, our narrative to tell. Our message is one of hope, reconciliation and equality for all people. This is the true path to peace and we are prepared to deliver it. We only ask that we be allowed to do so. In our own words. In our own name – as Palestinian Christians.
Rateb Y. Rabie