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OSMTH-I on Christian Crisis in Syria, Egypt with refugee needs in Jordon, Turkey & Iraq
The future of Christians in the Holy land - A Plan for Action


Introduction

Members of Christ the King Church, Santa Barbara and St. Andrew’s Church Ramallah met for three days, July 1-3, 2013 to focus on the future of Christians in the Holy Land utilizing the unique Faith-Based Reconciliation process.  Our deliberations also included the Bishop of the Diocese of Faisalabad in Pakistan who described the plight of Christians in Pakistan.

Background

The indigenous Arab Christian population in the Holy Land is disappearing owing to a combination of factors that create a pervasive climate of insecurity and hopelessness.  In 1978 the Christian population in the Holy Land was 25 – 30 percent of the total.  Today Christians are 1.6 percent of the population.

Discerning the Root of the Problem

In our conversations in the small groups we sought to move beyond describing symptoms of the problem or jumping forward to propose solutions before we ever defined the problem.  The root of the problem seems to be complex involving five major elements:

       The Israeli Part of the Problem

Clearly a significant part of the problem is the Israeli “occupation” which has two aspects:  settlements and checkpoints.  Their combined effort is to express the politics of anger; the anger of the State of Israel toward Palestinians particularly for the second intifada and the violence.

       The Palestinian Political Part of the Problem

The Palestinian Authority is riven with rampant corruption and has lost the confidence of their own people, particularly the youth.  This has led to a feeling that nothing will change because too many politicians benefit from the status quo.

       The Islamic Part of the Problem

There is increasing pressure on Palestinian Christians by the Islamists in the Muslim community to convert to Islam.  There are many expressions of disdain toward Christians by the Islamists.  At the same time any Muslim who considers embracing Jesus Christ will suffer social ostracism or worse.

Arab Christians in the Holy Land are living in a neighborhood (the Middle East) that is being increasingly radicalized by the Islamists and Jihadists.  This puts pressure even on moderate Muslims to adopt a more hard line posture toward Christians.

       The Western Christian Part of the Problem

The Christians from the United States and Europe and the Arab Christians of the Holy Land have a complicated relationship with each other.  Although we have a common bond in Jesus Christ there are frequently walls of hostility between us owing to a number of factors.  The longstanding affinity between American Christians and Israel is a source of angst for Arab Christians.  What particularly concerns them is the various stands of Christian Zionism that seem to give indiscriminate and uncritical support to the policies of the State of Israel.  The frequent intervention of the United States in the Arab/Muslim world, particularly the war in Iraq has put Arab Christians in the line of fire by angry Muslims.

       The Palestinian Christian Part of the Problem

Although the Arab Christian community traces its roots back to the time of Christ it is not uncommon that many Arab Christians are “Christian” in their family identity but lack a vital personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Hence, their understanding of the faith is more institutional in nature.  What is needed is personal conversion and empowerment with the Holy Spirit that gives them an inner fire.

A second part of the problem is a lack of vision.  What is their divine purpose and calling in the Holy Land at this time and with these realities?

Plan of Action

As partner congregations who find our common bond in Jesus Christ we pledge to do the following together:

1.     We will work together to foster revival amongst Arab Christians in Israel and Palestine.

CTK will conduct a Life In The Spirit Seminar for Episcopal youth from the West Bank in 2014

2.     We will work together to empower Israeli and Palestinian Arab Christians to be a reconciling bridge in the Holy Land among the Abrahamic communities.

3.     We will plant the vision of Faith-Based Reconciliation in the heart of St. Andrew’s so that it becomes a common shared vision between us.

CTK will conduct a Faith-Based Reconciliation workshop for the leaders and members of St. Andrew’s in 2014.

4.     We will have online virtual meetings between the Vestry of Christ the King and the Pastoral Committee of St. Andrew’s.

5.     We will begin a Christ the King/St. Andrew’s Facebook.

6.     We will bring a group of youth from St. Andrew’s to Christ the King in 2014.

7.     We will send two CTK teams to St. Andrew’s in 2014.

8.     St. Andrew’s will establish a partnership core group.

 


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