Bethlehem Christians Appeal to “Deaf Ears”

Bethlehem Christians have broken their silence over the crisis they face living in the birthplace of Jesus. The media story, written by senior journalist Khalid Abu Toameh, was published today [Thursday, January 25] by The Jerusalem Post.

Last month, we reported the increased suffering the Christians were facing. International human rights lawyer Justus Weiner spoke about the nightlong threatening phone calls they received. “We know where you are. We’re going to kill you;” such threats are causing mounting fear within the Christian minority.

Bethlehem Christians were too intimidated to speak out. They fear retaliation by their Muslim neighbors, and they know they will be accused of collaborating with Israel. Now they say they have protested to the Vatican, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen], Church leaders, and European governments, but Toameh reports, “Their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.”

The position has become so critical that Christians agreed to being named as they voiced their predicament. “The situation is very dangerous,” said Said Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based, private Shepherd TV station. “I believe that 15 years from now, there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Then you will need a torch to find a Christian here,” he told Toumeh.

Qumsiyeh has spoken out before. His house was recently attacked by fire-bombs, and he has been the subject of numerous death threats. He told of a monk who was “roughed up” for trying to protect land seized from Christians. He described a “land mafia,” which has plundered land owned by Christians.

Another Christian couple woke one morning to find their land fenced off. “A lawyer and an official with the Palestinian Authority just came and took our land,” Georgette Lama, 69, told The Jerusalem Post. When her husband, 72, protested, he was severely beaten and threatened with guns.

“My husband is after heart surgery, and they still beat him,” Georgette said. In a poignant statement, she added, “Most Christians are afraid to speak, but I don’t care because we have nothing to lose.”

This is a disgraceful story. At Bridges for Peace, we have written, spoken, and taught about it for several years, but it seems to continue to “fall on deaf ears.” When Dr Rice visits the region, could she inquire about this human rights abuse? Could your local congressman or parliamentarian add some weight to the cries of the Bethlehem Christians?

Pray about the action you can initiate to find an ear that will hear.

(By Ron Ross, Bridges for Peace, January 25, 2007)

Prayer Focus
Pray that the lies and deception in Palestinian society will be exposed, and that people will seek the truth diligently. Pray for Christians in Bethlehem who are being persecuted.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12).