Palestine (MNN) – The Holy Land is the birthplace of Christianity. Areej Masoud with Bethlehem Bible College says Christians once made up around 30 percent of the population in Palestine. Now, per the Joshua Project, Palestinian Christians are less than 1.2 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza. However, Masoud says realistically they make up less than one percent.
“This is where Christianity started and because of the many different religions and faith that have started here in this land, that’s why you call it the Holy Land. But then I’m worried that this is where people would start coming to visit empty churches,” Masoud says.
Many Palestinian Christians are concerned they have been forgotten and possibly abandoned by the international community. Masoud says while Palestinian Christians are not persecuted, they do face pressures and instability because of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“It affects us and affects our future generations. We expect our Christian brothers and sisters to intervene actually. We expect them to step in and be our…voice in their position of leadership…in the different countries or in the different places,” Masoud says.
The Body of Christ
If we truly believe that we are one body of Christ, then we need to ask ourselves if we are suffering with our Palestinian family as 1 Corinthians 12:26 suggests. If we do feel their pain, what are we doing in response? But also, how does it impact our Biblical interpretation of present-day Israel.
“There’s a lot of Biblical interpretations that are supporting the occupation and are dehumanizing people. When people, regardless of faith backgrounds, are dehumanized, it is our concern because we are created in God’s image. It is our concern as Palestinian Christians because we do have responsibilities to defend our Bible and to defend God’s Words and explain the true…love of God,” Masoud explains.
“When we don’t do this, we contribute to actually deform the Bible and deform such holiness like the words of good news into such ideologies and agendas.”
It is Palestinian Christians who are in the Holy Land and reflecting Christ to both the Jew and the Muslim, to their enemy and their neighbor. They are the ones who hold the ability to challenge misleading ideologies on Biblical interpretations of Israel because they are the Christians living in the region, experiencing the wrongdoings of those called “God’s Chosen People”, and facing alienations from their brothers and sisters who are supposed to weep and rejoice with them.
Listening to Palestinian Christians
Unsure how to do this? Start by listening to Palestinian Christians like Masoud. Listen to their stories, and then share them and echo their struggles in your circles.
“We always ask people to pray for us for hope, but also for strength for where we’re at now. We ask them to…put prayers into action. Also, we ask them to come visit us. We have a Ta’Shuf Tours through the college. We provide such an opportunity where you can actually come visit us, not only as a tourist would only go to churches and visit the stones, but also get involved with the living stones in the land. [Get] to know the people and see what we’re going through and how we’re living our daily lives, and to speak up as well,” Masoud says.
“I believe in Martin Luther King’s quote when he said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ And that’s a powerful quote for where we’re at. We try to ask people to speak and not be silenced.”
Another way to learn more and to discover how to stand beside your Palestinian brothers and sisters is by attending a Christ at the Checkpoint conference. This conference is held every two years by Bethlehem Bible College. The next conference is in 2020. But, until then, there are resources at the conference’s website to learn more about Palestinian Christians, read their stories, and learn how to stand alongside them.
Join us tomorrow to discover how you can further hold a reverence for the Holy Land while also learning from our Palestinian brothers and sisters through Bethlehem Bible College’s Ta’ Shuf tours.
Header photo courtesy of MissyKel via Flickr.