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Perspectives: Christianity and Islam

15 Oct 2010 The Relationship between Christianity and Islam
A sketch of the current situation in the Holy Land(Adapted from an address by Father Guido Gockel, M.H.M., to the Netherlands Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, 10 June 2010)

The attacks on September 11, 2011, and the speech of Pope Benedict in Regensburg in September 2006 on “Faith, Reason and the University” ruffled many feathers. The media inundated us with stories about Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, and the persecution and massacre of Christians, causing fear and mistrust. The subsequent events in the Netherlands in connection with Islam also color our assessment of the problems in the Holy Land.

I want to clarify some facts presented by the media and hopefully make a contribution towards true rapprochement between Christians and Muslims. Please note that I am limiting my comments geographically to Israel, Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.

Since there is no clear definition of the term “persecution” in the Dutch language, let me begin by sharing with you my definition, “the deliberate denial of rights, or suppression or, in extremis, even destruction of a certain group usually for reasons of their beliefs.”

It has been said...

...that persecution is one of the reasons why Christians leave the Holy Land.

In 1982 the then patriarch, Msgr. Beltritti, gave three reasons for emigration in general: the first was economic, because people were seeking income for their families; the second was social, in that people wanted to escape from the stifling pressure of being a minority in a Muslim or Jewish society; and, the third was psychological, in that people wanted to be liberated from the hopeless occupation and oppression.

However, there are other reasons, such as the lack of opportunities for higher education. Generally, Christian youth in the Middle East come from educated, middle or upper-middle class families and intend on pursuing higher education. They are attracted to better educational opportunities in other countries and later settle down there since there are also better career opportunities.

The second intifada (September 2000) is another reason. During the fighting, militants used Christians neighborhoods to fire upon Jewish settlements, because, in the eyes of many Muslims, Christians are regarded as accomplices of the western “Christian” governments. (Muslims generally have no separation between religion and state.)

The pope has also cited international policy as a reason for Christian emigration from the Holy Land. In the Instrumentum Laboris, the working paper for the meeting of the Synod of Bishops from the Middle East regarding the situation in the Middle East, he wrote: “International politics oftentimes pays no attention to the existence of Christians, and the fact that they are victims, at times the first to suffer, goes unnoticed. This is also a major cause of emigration.”

Nowhere, therefore, do we find persecution as a reason or indication as to why Christians emigrate.

It has been said…

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