Richard Stearns–A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians

While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle — one that would give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. Holy Week has long been a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Christians have worshiped there since the birth of the church, and these sites are a core aspect of the devotion of Palestinian believers.
The restrictions on travel for worship are not only in force during Holy Week, but also for routine Sunday services, weddings, funerals, and baptisms throughout the year. Certainly, Israel can take care of its own security concerns while accommodating peaceful Palestinian Christian worship.

In a recent letter by 80 Palestinian Christian leaders, including the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians spoke out against the lack of religious freedom inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. They complained of being forced to endure an “assault on our natural and basic right to worship.”

Read it all.


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4 comments on “Richard Stearns–A Dark Easter for Palestinian Christians

  1. francis says:

    I am not sure what to do with this piece. There can be peace in Israel whenever the Palestinians decide that is what they want. The Palestinians are the source of the problem. Blaming Israel for its own self defense gets us nowhere. Christian Arabs have a more difficult time living under Palestinian control than Israeli. Israel is more open than under Palestinians. Stearns is unable to gain my sympathy.

  2. Terry Tee says:

    Francis, your comment about Palestinian Christians finding life more difficult under Palestinians than under Israeli is only true of Gaza where the already small Christian community has virtually been forced underground, in a process that has included murder. On the West Bank the churches are flourishing and Christian leaders are participants in civil society. As regards Christian Palestinians under the Israelis, the picture is mixed. In Galilee they are prosperous, certainly, and enjoy a freedom and protection under the law which would be the envy of Middle Eastern Christians elsewhere. In Jerusalem, however, they suffer as much as anybody else from the virtual refusal of building permits. Palestinians are effectively squeezed out of Jerusalem while of course recent Jewish immigrants from elsewhere are made at home.

  3. francis says:

    Bethlehem, West Bank. I believe that the majority of the exodus from Bethlehem has taken place since 1995 under Palestinian control. The Jerusalem issues are defensive. And just where in Jerusalem are there going to be an abundance of building permits? Jerusalem has more access to a wide range of visitors now under Israeli control than before 1967.

  4. Terry Tee says:

    Building permits could be issued in the following regions:
    Sheikh Jarrah
    Ras al Amud
    … and others …
    but this evades the point that vast suburbs have been built to accommodate Jewish incomers from abroad while Arabs have been denied any such expansion.
    The point about the exodus from Bethlehem is, I am afraid, true, that it has mostly taken place under Palestinian control. Some would argue that this is because the Israeli squeeze on access has devastated the economy, not to mention Israeli control of water meaning that almost wholly Christian communities like Beit Sahur have sometimes been denied water for long periods. However, there is no doubt that pressure from Muslims has also played a role in this.