A letter that was sent by Rifat Kassis of Kairos Palestine this weekend to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the letter to Dr Rowan Williams Kairos Palestine said…
Bethlehem, 18 June 2011
The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace Road
Kairos Palestine is deeply troubled by your recent comments regarding the situation of Christians in the Middle East in general and more particularly those related to the Palestinian Christians, as it was aired on the June 14 broadcast of the BBC news programme "The World at One."1
Your inaccurate and erroneous remarks cite Muslim extremism as the greatest threat facing Christians in Palestine, and the primary reason for our emigration. Your statements about Bethlehem are particularly faulty and offensive especially when you say that the movement of Muslims into the Bethlehem area, where space is limited, is forcing Christians to leave.
Equally shocking is how Your Grace managed, diplomatically – instead of being prophetic, as one would expect you to be, not to mention the Israeli occupation, the separation wall, Israel confiscation of Palestinian land, its policies that violate freedom of movement and worship (Palestinians in Bethlehem cannot, for instance, go to Jerusalem), or its brutal crackdowns on nonviolent protests as one of the major reasons that push not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians.
We were hoping that Your Grace would have a different voice than the one in mass media and other right wing political parties, which exploit our sufferings to fuel some islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam. Indeed, this is what the Israeli occupation persistently tries to do. It demonizes Islam in a way that deflects blame from the repression levied by the state itself. We are concerned that your comments are serving the same purpose.
We were deeply saddened by your declarations because we know that Your Grace is well informed about the situation in the Holy Land, and you know very well that in the Bethlehem area alone there are 19 illegal Israeli settlements (such as nearby Har Homa built on Jabal Abu Ghneim) and the wall that have devoured Christian lands and put Bethlehem in a chokehold. You know well that only 13% of Bethlehem area is available for Palestinian use and the wall isolates 25% or the Bethlehem area's agricultural land. Not to mention the situation of Christians in Jerusalem, which you know very well, since you should have received reports from the Anglican Bishop in the City whose residency permit was denied by the occupying power. We can go on and on, but it is no longer important…
We are no longer expecting support from Church leaders around the world. Our Hope, Faith and Love come from elsewhere. However, at the same time, we request you and every leader, especially church leaders, not to use us and our cause for your own purposes. We are so thankful to Your Grace for the "International Conference on Christians in the Holy Land" that you are holding in your Palace in July, but we feel it will be useless, not to say harmful to us, indigenous Christians in the land of the Holy One, if the outcome will be in the same spirit as your interview.
Since Your Grace did not meet or consult with any Palestinian Christians during your recent visit here, we are wondering why would you be suddenly interested to speak on our behalf? This troubles us. Palestinian Christians are fully capable of expressing their situation without needing anyone to interpret what they mean; we are happy to meet directly with church leaders and, in solidarity, discuss our reality and what can be done to transform it.
Finally, we would like to remind Your Grace that Christian Palestinians need advocates for the truth. It is the truth, and only the truth, that will lead to peace and justice in our home.
With all our due respect.
Rifat Odeh Kassis
Kairos Palestine Coordinator
1The full broadcast can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13769747.
See also the Archbishop's web page: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2071/christians-in-the-middle-east-archbishop-on-world-at-one
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.