Christians should honor their close ties to Muslims this Ramadan
Sadly, tensions have increased between Christians and Muslims but the truth is the two peoples and their religions could not be closer. Muslims and Christians have always gotten along and defended each other. And these days both need to stand together in the face of terrorism against civilians whether it is in New York City, in the Gaza Strip or in the Arab World. Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan
By Ray Hanania
This week as Muslims around the world celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan, I have to wonder which religion has done more to embrace and honor the principles and beliefs of their religion, Muslims, Christians or Jews.
As a Palestinian Arab Christian, I have always been proud of my religious roots.
My father was born in Jerusalem and my mother was born in Bethlehem, two cities that are such important symbols of the Christian religion.
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My mother lived under the shadow of the Church of the Nativity where the Prophet Jesus, and the founder of the Christian religion, was born. My father lived under the shadow of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the Prophet Jesus was crucified.
Although Israel’s Jewish activists continue to try to exploit Christianity for their political benefit, claiming to be our protectors in the Holy Land, the truth is Muslims have done more to protect Christian Arabs.
I grew up believing that though I am a Christian Arab, I am “Muslim by Culture,” a statement of deep respect for the powerful religious foundation of true Muslims.
Throughout the centuries, Muslims have always protected not only Christians but Jews, too. In college I studied the Ottoman Empire and the rule of the Sultans. It was always clear that the Ottoman Sultans always protected the Christians and the Jews, and that the real threat of true Christianity has come from the West where Christianity has been diluted with commercialism, xenophobia and selfish foreign politics.
I don’t pretend to be a religious scholar, but I can compare the Muslim and Christian Worlds today. Muslims take pride in the fact that they have a “Custodian” of their Holy Sites, the Al Haram (Sacred) Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid an-Nabawi, in Medinah. The Al Haram Mosque is the most important built next to the Prophet Muhammad’s home and is the First House of Worship.
Every day, Muslims pray five times facing towards (Qibla) the Mosque in Mecca. Each year, Muslims from around the world converge on Mecca to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage, one of the Five Pillars of Islam and a requirement of true Muslims to perform at least once in their lifetime.
It makes me wonder what kind of commitment do Christians have for their religion and their Holy Sites?
Today, Arab Christians have been abandoned by the Christians of the West. Christianity is divided into many religions and the most recognized center for Christianity is not in the Holy Land where Christianity was born, but in the seat of power established by the Roman Caesars who spent centuries feeding early Christians to the Lions.
The Pope or Bishop of the Catholic faith, lives in Rome in The Vatican. I wondered what kind of leader is the Pope and a religious institution that has failed to become the Custodian of the Christian Holy Places which are really located not in Rome but in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.
Today, Jerusalem and Bethlehem are being destroyed by Israel’s government. Land owned by Christians is being confiscated and taken from them by Israel’s government.
While there are many Israelis who are different, too many in Israel and in Israel’s government embrace extremism and view Christians and Muslims as threats to their fanatic political beliefs.
This week I met with the Father Atallah Hanna, the Patriach of Jerusalem for the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia (Nablus, Palestine). Orthodox Christians seem to be the strongest voices to speak in defense of Christian rights in Israel and Father Hanna is their most courageous voice.
Father Hanna is fearless. He denounced the Greek Orthodox segment of the Orthodox Religion when Greek leaders began selling Christian-owned lands inside occupied Palestine to Israel. He has condemned Israeli atrocities and demanded that Israel recognize the Right of Return. He denounced the decision by President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Occupied Jerusalem as a move that undermines peace.
I wasn’t surprised when Father Hanna told me he is not optimistic about peace and believes that Israel’s government is the primary obstacle.
When I asked him about relations between the Arab and Muslim Worlds, he told me clearly and forcefully that “Christians and Muslims are one.”
American Christians in particular have abandoned their true faith. They have forgotten the Holy Places of Christianity in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem. They sneer at people who use the words “Allah” or who pray “Alahu Akbar,” and they view in an ugly prejudice all Arabs as being Muslim, failing to understand the Muslim religion for its true beauty and purity.
My mother, who attended services at the Church of the Nativity, always used the word Allah (God) when praying, and she would often say “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).
As Muslims around the world commemorate Ramadan, the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, Christians should stand with them in brotherhood. Ramadan is a Muslim religious Holiday, but for Arab Christians it is an important part of our lives, too.
So, to my Muslim brothers and sisters, I say, “Salam alaykumu, wa rahmatullahi, wa barakatuh,” which for those who don’t speak Arabic means “May the peace, mercy of God, and blessings of God be with you,” a greeting that every true Christian embraces.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania