Open Letter to Pope Francis from a Christian Palestinian
By Ray Hanania
Dear Pope Francis. Can I be frank?
When it comes to Christians, you are considered as one of their most recognized leaders. You’re not the only one, of course, because Christians are divided and sub-divided into so many rival groups.
But Christian Catholics are one of the largest if not the largest Christian group in the world.
So, even though I am Orthodox raised Protestant, I feel as a Christian Palestinian, I need to write my appeal directly to you.
There is a big campaign by Israel to convince you that Christians are treated better in Israel than in the unrecognized State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, or in the rest of the Arab World.
But I wanted to bring a few facts to your attention, considering my mother is from Bethlehem, and, well, Jesus is my relative. (It’s a small world, really.)
My mother’s family has owned for generations nearly nine acres of land located between Jerusalem and Gilo, the illegal Jewish-only settlement that was created following the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank in 1967.
We had a home there, and a beautiful water well, too. But when Israel began building the illegal settlement of Gilo in 1973 and, it destroyed the home and the well, because we are Christian. In 1980, Israel “annexed” Gilo along with Arab East Jerusalem and pretty much undermined any real chance for peace. My land, located in the so-called “Gilo-shoehorn,” was annexed by Israel, too.
Israel claims that Christians are treated better by them than they are treated by the Muslims in Palestine and in the rest of the Arab World. But that’s not true.
In fact, Israel discriminates against Christians, like me, just as viciously as they discriminate against Muslims.
I know because I have tried to claim my land and despite having all of the original paperwork and legal documents to prove my family land ownership, the Mayor of Jerusalem has refused to acknowledge my family claim.
In fact, over the years, Israel has also annexed lands adjacent to Bethlehem including large sections of Shepherd’s Field, you know, the land named in honor of Jesus, your boss and my cousin.
It is true that many Muslims, mostly the religious extremists in the Middle East and in conflict zones like the biased, anti-Arab country called “America: The Land of the Mostly Free,” discriminate against Christian Arabs. Worse, the Muslims refuse to acknowledge that discrimination or to even address it publicly. In truth, Arabs have a problem with a lot of things and airing their “dirty laundry” is one of their biggest problems.
So, Muslims pretend their discrimination against Christians doesn’t exist. And when a Christian like me speaks out against Muslim bigotry against Christians, I am discriminated against, vilified, threatened and excluded as badly by Muslims as by Christians.
In a sense, Christians are not treated well by any side. And that’s why you need to do something. You need to stand up and publicly demand that both sides stop discriminating against us Christians.
You need to challenge Israel’s claims that they treat Christians better, which claims that are more about millions of dollars in strategic propaganda than in factual truth. The fact is I am not the only Christian Palestinian whose rights are being erased by Israel’s discriminatory policies.
But you need to also confront the discrimination against Christian Arabs by the Muslim community.
Most Muslims are not anti-Christian. They support Christians, more than most Israelis. But, the truth is that the Muslims avoid “airing their dirty laundry” so instead of confronting the Islamic extremists who attack Christians, they pretend the discrimination doesn’t exist.
Which side is worse?
I don’t know.
I do know that I deserve to have my land. I deserve to have my rights recognized as one of those Christian Palestinians that both sides claim wrongly they support.
I also know that Palestinian Christians deserve to be protected not just from radical Islamic activists and fanatics, but also from Israel’s extremist government. And even though many Christians are not Catholic, it is still your job to do something.
Are you really the spokesman for God? If so, then you will speak out about what Israel is doing to destroy and erase the Christian Palestinian presence in Palestine. You will speak out about Israel’s refusal to recognize Palestinian rights to have their own state.
But you also must speak out about the apathy in the Muslim World, from the Kings and dictators all the way down to the Imams and falaheen in the country sides of the Fertile Crescent.
The truth is that the Islamic fanatics would not be targeting Christians if the Muslim leadership took this issue more seriously.
But, this is a taboo topic. We are not allowed to speak about it.
I hope that you will change that when you visit the Middle East May 24 and the disappearing Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.
To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM … Click here to read the Arabic language version
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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