Bethlehem ’s Forgotten Christians
“Their plight needs to be remembered. It is marked by a decreasing population. Calling on authorities to protect and preserve the Christian community is essential.”
By Kristin Butler
12/23/2008 Palestine (crosswalk.com)-The little town of Bethlehem famously characterized in the renowned Christmas carol captured millions of hearts with its tranquil imagery of Christ’s birthplace. But the Bethlehem that I visited last Christmastime evoked a somewhat different sentiment.
The Last of the Christians
My first stop in Bethlehem is Bethlehem Bible College , a well-respected Bible College providing an opportunity for students from a myriad of backgrounds to gain a quality education. I mingle with the students and explore the classrooms. A narrow door opens onto the roof of Bethlehem Bible College , where I look out over hundreds of whitewashed buildings dotting the hillside.
I hear the Muslim call to prayer being broadcast over dozens of loudspeakers at the pinnacle of dozens of mosques. And slowly I begin to catch a glimpse of the day-to-day challenges that Palestinian Christians must feel.
It must be hard, I begin to think, when your national identity is so closely intertwined with a particular religious affiliation. The Palestinian Christians I speak with feel misunderstood. They are the last of the dwindling minority of Christians on the West Bank . They are not Muslims, but they are Palestinian. They do not support the extremist attacks, but they often feel that they are treated unjustly by the Israeli army. And for many Palestinian believers, the wall around their city feels like a prison.
Both Sides of the Wall
When I first arrived at the Palestinian Bible Society on the West Bank , I couldn’t help but notice the posters depicting Palestinian martyr Rami Ayyad, displayed on the doors and windows of the building. It is a reminder of the brutal Gaza strip murder that rocked the Palestinian Christian community less than a year before, when armed militants bundled bookstore owner Rami Ayyad into the back of a car and shot him to death. The act sparked fear and anguish in the Christian community, leaving believers to wonder about their future in this land.
“Joy and Agony”
Their Greatest Need this Christmas
Moeller says that the greatest need for Palestinian Christians this Christmas season is prayer. “Prayer is the most essential thing we can do,” he says. “Just to become aware of their situation is vital.”
Moeller also encouraged Western Christians raise awareness for those who face violations of their religious freedom in the West Bank . “Their plight needs to be remembered. It is marked by a decreasing population. Calling on authorities to protect and preserve the Christian community is essential.”
Grace, too, asked to be remembered in prayer.
“What we need is for the body of Christ to remember us, to know of us, to visit and fellowship with us,” she writes, “to come and see the real story and witness what is really happening, but above all to pray for us. Don’t forget the Palestinian Christians We’re here and we exist.”