Rumors of war

"Rumors of war" Continued...

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

An Arab Christian but Israeli citizen, Mr. Riah told WORLD he encountered 14 checkpoints between Nazareth and Jerusalem on his way to a meeting with church leaders during the height of the confrontation in April. The delays by Israeli authorities caused him to miss the meeting. Mr. Riah told WORLD he condemns the suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian terrorists, "but I want to make it clear that I do support Mr. Arafat in his struggle for independence, and see that peace can only be based on justice, when the Palestinians under occupation are liberated from all their sufferings." (WORLD earlier reported that Mr. Riah did not support the Palestinian Authority leader.)

Many Arab Christians are discriminated against along with Arab Muslims in Israel and side with the Palestinians politically. Their position receives support from a wide range of Christian organizations-from the World Council of Churches to conservative churches and parachurch groups in the United States, like the Assemblies of God, who sponsor workers among Palestinians and identify with their hard plight. They see providing justice to Palestinians as the priority. Many also believe the prophecies concerning Israel were fulfilled in the New Testament coming of Jesus Christ.

Debates between those two sides over the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians obscure another troublesome plight: the slow extinction of Christians in the Middle East. Once a majority in places like Bethlehem and Nazareth and in countries like Lebanon, Christians number less than 14 million in a population of 200 million. Millions emigrate because of individual persecution and political oppression, largely at the hands of Muslim neighbors.

While 1.5 million Christians remain in Lebanon, more than 6 million live abroad. Jerusalem had 28,000 Christian residents at the time of modern Israel's formation in 1947; now they number well under 10,000.


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