Far From Happy Christmas for Christians in the Holy Land

Far From Happy Christmas for Christians in the Holy Land  The Christians who still live in the Holy Land face a Christmas that will be far from happy, merry or bright. They are a persecuted minority.

O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…” This hymn, and dozens like it will be sung all over the world soon, as they are every Christmas. Cards depicting the scene of the holy birth will decorate millions of houses.  Nativities will be set up in homes, in shopping malls, in churches.  But as people prepare to celebrate the humanity of a man known as Jesus of Nazareth, his homeland is no longer a safe place to be for those who follow him.

There are 14 million Christians throughout the Holy Land but they are a rapidly dwindling minority. Many of them are so desperately vulnerable that they feel they have no choice now but to emigrate. In Iraq alone, since the fall of Saddam, a startling two-thirds have fled.  Since 2003 at least a million have left. Most of them went to Syria. Now they face a second wave of displacement as they are no longer protected there.  There have been reports of rape, murder and attacks directed at them and the Christian community lives in terror.  When they feel they have to run for their lives they head for Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. It is said that the ancient Syrian Armenian community has all but gone.

Egypt has seen churches being burnt and anti-Coptic rioting. In Gaza and on the West Bank, Christians are caught up in chaotic uncertainty. To be Christian in the Holy Land, the birthplace of Jesus, is to live in fear.  The Vatican has confirmed as credible the estimate that 100,000 Christians are killed every year for their beliefs.

Historian Tom Holland has noted how deeply ironic it is, that two devoutly Christian leaders, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, brought about, inadvertently, the final demise of Christianity in the Middle East by invading Iraq. Now the Arab Spring has proven the final knell, as Christians are all too easy targets for extremists and are living in dire jeopardy.

The major Christian celebrations are still national holidays in Syria, and this is testament to the fact that Syria has long been a sanctuary for Middle Eastern Christians.  One of the oldest parts of Damascus is the Christian Quarter at Bab Touma.  Islamic and Christian communities used to live side by side in such ease, that sacred spaces were shared.  There was ethnic and religious tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.  Now, along with so much in Syria, that harmonious co-habitation has been ripped apart.

Speaking about his deep concerns for the beleaguered Christians of the Middle East, has been HRH Prince Charles. At an inter-faith reception he said he is very troubled by what he calls the “intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution” to the Christian faith communities.  It is a problem affecting Syria, Egypt, Palestine and Iraq as well as other Arab countries. The prince says it is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to the targeting of these Christians by “fundamentalist Islamic militants.”

The birthplace of Jesus and the founding site of Christianity now has less than 4 percent of Christians making up the entire population of the Middle East and North Africa;  a number that has dropped dramatically over the past 100 years.  Prince Charles sees this as a great threat to possible peace in these regions as Christians are renowned for their bridge-building capabilities.  He himself had been trying to build a bridge between Islam and Christianity for the last 20 years, but these efforts have been beset by those with “vested interests” in destroying them.

The prince’s bridge-building metaphor is set in stone above a mosque in the Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri, south of Delhi. The mosque is an astounding piece of Muslim architecture. Yet over the arched gate which leads to the interior, is this inscription:

Jesus, Son of Mary (on whom be peace) said: The World is a Bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the World endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen.”

Both the Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jehangir were devoted to Jesus and Mary. They did not see this as at all at odds with their Muslim faith.  Esteemed historian, William Dalrymple, an expert in the Middle East, has explained the archaic connections between the two religions, more united in similarities than in difference.

The sayings of Jesus, such as this one, make up hundreds of references in ancient Arabic literature. They originate from a variety of sources, some from early Christian texts like the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, some from the four canonical gospels, and others from oral tradition. Curiously, Islam has retained these where Christianity has not.

These sayings, Dalyrymple reasons, “fill out and augment the profoundly reverential picture of Christ painted in the Koran.”  It is only his divinity that is questioned. Mary has more mentions in the Koran than she does in the entire Gospels and is in fact the only woman ever given her proper name therein. She is held, as is Jesus, to be a “model for Muslims.”  The old Mosaic laws, like circumcision,are accepted in Islam, as is a great deal of both the Old and the New Testaments.  This is hardly surprising, Dalrymple reminds us, when both Christianity and Islam grew from the same culture of the ancient world of the Middle east.

A 16th century painting of a nativity scene now in the British Library symbolizes this.  Mary is in the center with the baby Jesus on her knee. Yet she leans on an Indian throne and is attended by Mughal servants. The three wise men are dressed as Jesuits.  There is no stable, no cattle lowing, no shepherds and no sheep. This is because Islamic lore contends that Jesus was born under a palm tree beside an oasis. Therefore, in this painting, Mary sits under a palm outside a haveli, all the better to reach up and pluck fruit whilst she is in labor.

This picture, combining the two traditions, is many hundreds of years old.  It shows that the celebration of the birth of Jesus was long accepted as a subject of common ground. Indubitably there are differences, but the history of Islamic-Christian relations has long, respectful roots.

The profound concern of the Prince of Wales about the persecution of the remaining Christians in the Middle East has been supported by Prince Ghazi of Jordan. He has said that Christians were in the Middle East 600 years before Muslims. Indeed, he went on, “Arabs were perhaps the first non-Hebrew Christians in the world and became Christians during Jesus Christ’s own lifetime.”

Pope Francis has also expressed his worries. In a tweet under his Twitter handle of @Pontifex he wrote, “We cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East without Christians. Let us pray every day for peace.”

Pray for peace seems an apt response at this time of year when “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men” is the primary message of hope. For the Christians of the Holy Land, facing a Christmas that will be far from happy, it is all they can do.

By Kate Henderson

Sources:

BBC News Magazine

Daily Telegraph

Huffington Post

Daily Mail

198 Responses to Far From Happy Christmas for Christians in the Holy Land

  1. Jenna B. December 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    You get what you sew…

    Reply
  2. abe nowosibirsky December 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    very sad

    Reply
  3. Jawan December 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    They r suffering a lot , they r going through a lot as Christians , they r getting killed, hurt, raped cuz they r Christian’s

    Reply
  4. George December 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

    This only points to the fact that the message of the true Christians is true about his birth, his sinless life, and his full atonement death for their sinners and his resurrection from the dead the third day, as well as his return to heaven and coming again for his own one day from heaven. And that there also is a real devil just as in Jesus day who uses people like King Herod to try to stop what God is doing to save the souls of those who will repent and believe the gospel in their hearts. Sincerely ;

    Reply
  5. Steve Winston December 24, 2013 at 6:46 am

    The holy land is Israel where there is no religious persecution and all are respected and free to practice their faith. The rest of the Middle East is in Arab hands (even though some parts of it essentially Jordan were promised to Israel by the duplicitous Brits). The Muslims have already driven out all Jews from Arab lands and are now destroying their Christian communities. Islam has no tolerance for anything other than subjugation of the world under Islam. That is it’s aim much like the Catholic church aimed to do until recently. The Catholic Inquisition only ended in the late 1800′s.

    Reply
    • Miguel December 24, 2013 at 7:28 am

      Islam has been a religion of intolerance and violence since it’s earliest days. Unfortunately, that part of their history is rarely taught. They claim to be children of Abraham yet they muster Jews who are children of Abraham. What religion condones the murdering of family?

      Reply
      • Jenna B. December 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        Um let’s see, do you forget about all the times God sanctified the death of first born sons, destroyed the entire world because he “made a mistake”

        Why don’t you shut the hell up because you have no clue what the hell you’re talking about.

        Muslims ARE christians, just a different SKY FAIRY.

        MORON!

        Reply
        • SeaDragon December 27, 2013 at 7:43 am

          Learn the definition, Christians are followers of Jesus the Christ. There is not a muslim alive that believes in Jesus as the Son of God.
          As for beliefs, A muslim wants to kill non-muslims so they (the killer) can go to heaven. A Christian wants to save all non-Christians so ALL can go to Heaven.
          Not any similarity I can find.

          Reply
  6. Clancy Abend December 24, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Goodness will prevail over evil……

    Reply
  7. Michael December 24, 2013 at 3:08 am

    I can’t believe the amount if bible ignorance is in these comments.

    Reply
  8. rod falkenberg December 24, 2013 at 2:11 am

    And Obama is the main cause. He’s a pro moslem anti Christian figure, lending support to the Islamists wherever he can. Our nation’s power and wealthy have been subverted and used against our brethren by this tyrannical monster.

    Reply
  9. Devri December 24, 2013 at 2:05 am

    I believe the author refers to the areas and countries around modern day Israel as the Holy Land because they are clearly spoken of in the Holy Bible. Only Israel is the “Promised Land” though. But in Christ, it matters not where we live, because He Himself is our Promised Land. In Him is provision for every need and the fulfillment of our most cherished dreams.

    Reply
  10. Donna December 24, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Israel fake jews are no better than the Islam extremist terrorist. They are racist bigots that have nothing but hatred in their heart. Sorry fake jews, you are just as bad as the terrorist you claim to defend against.

    PROOF fake “Jews” hate the WORLD’S MESSIAH:

    “Mary was a whore: Jesus (Balaam) was an evil man.” (Sanhedrin 106a &b, p.725)
    “Jesus was a magician and a fool. Mary was an adulteress”. (Shabbath 104b, p.504)
    Gittin 57a. Says Jesus is in hell, being boiled in “hot excrement.”
    “Jesus was a bastard born of adultery.” (Yebamoth 49b, p.324)

    PROOF fake “Jews” are no different than EXTREMIST TERRORISTS WHO CLAIM IT IS OKAY TO MURDER ANYONE THEY PLEASE:

    Sanhedrin 58b
    If a goy killed a goy or a Jew he is responsible, but if a Jew killed a goy he is not responsible.

    Sanhedrin 59a
    To communicate anything to a Goy about our religious relations would be equal to the killing of all Jews, for if the Goyim knew what we teach about them, they would kill us openly..

    Mas. Shabbath 31b
    On the house of the Goy [Goy means unclean, and is the disparaging term for a non-Jew] one looks as on the fold of cattle

    Zohar, Vayshlah 177b
    A Jew may rob a Goy, he may cheat him over a bill, which should not be perceived by him, otherwise the name of God would become dishonoured.

    Zohar, Toldoth Noah 63b
    When the Messiah comes every Jew will have 2800 slaves

    Reply
    • Joe285smith December 24, 2013 at 2:55 am

      You are referring to Babylonian Talmud Ashkenazi Jews, not Sephardi Hebrews. Look up operation ringworm where Ashkenazi Jews radiated Sephardi Hebrew kids to murder them.

      Thou Shalt not steal.
      Thou shalt not bear false witness. (lying, misleading in any way)
      There is no other GOD, but the GOD of Abraham.
      Anything that says otherwise is from the devil and his devil worshiping followers.
      As shown by Donnas quotes.

      Reply
    • Michael December 24, 2013 at 3:23 am

      Also if you weigh any anti gentile attitudes in Judaism on one side and the deaths of Jews by hateful Gentiles on the other which one is gonna look justified ?

      Reply
    • isaacw December 24, 2013 at 7:06 am

      You gotta understand something, the nature of a people is not judged by the books they study, its judged by thier actual actions. Goyim have murderd jews and fellow goyim by the hundred of millions since the time the talmud you are quoting was written. True, the jews held that thier fellow jew was a bastred and deserved death, but guess what, the goyim killed him not the dredded jews.

      Reply
  11. Michael December 24, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Last I checked, the Holy Land refers to Israel
    And its Christian minority is perfectly fine
    In the rest of the middle east, doing not so well
    Rewrite article title, it is erroneous

    Reply
  12. SharpShtik December 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Socialists, communists, Muslims and Jews, not all, but most, are allied against their common enemy, Christians. While Israeli Jews tolerate minority Christians, American Jews have waged war on Christianty for a century. Muslims have waged war on Christians for nearly 1400 years. Self defense (e.g. crusades) has given way to capitulation thanks to control of governments by socialists and communists.

    Reply
  13. IsaacW December 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I cant believe that in this day and age, stupid articles such as this gain attention. The only holy land according to Christianity is Israel, where the Christians are treated with the utmost respect by a Jewish government. The Christians should learn tolerance from the nation that brought them their Jesus.

    Reply
  14. Regina December 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    I used to read about the persected Christians in far off places..never did I imagine this would advance so rapidly all over the world. Jews are leaving parts of Europe just like during WW2 It’s sad, but hey, muslims will declare they love death more than life. Why the hell don’t they just castrate themselves?

    Reply
  15. Hayes William December 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Love your brother as you love yourself.

    Reply
    • rod falkenberg December 24, 2013 at 2:16 am

      Love your brother as you love yourself is a misunderstood phrase. It was Jesus setting the bar impossibly high to show that only He could carry out that instruction — on our behalf.

      Reply
  16. Susan December 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    The writer is an ignoramous to refer to the various countries in the Middle East as “the Holy Land.” Only Israel is “the Holy Land” and it is the only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe.

    Reply
  17. jesusrocks December 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    The safest place for Christians on this planet is Israel………….

    Reply
    • Silly Goy December 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Your out of your mind….They hate the christian goy too…..

      Reply
  18. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS December 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    That’s alright…

    Christians will meet their Maker & spend ETERNITY in heaven while Muslims are spending ETERNITY IN HELL!

    Reply
  19. Miguel December 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Hating Jews is still tolerated. Just shows how doomed the human race is. So much unrestrained hatred. It seems to have no end but we know it does.

    Reply
  20. JC Rules December 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I get tired of this obligatory Liberal/Left kneejerk damning of Christians for the “Holocaust”..Firstly the Nazis were NOT CHRISTIANS, either in phlosophy ,OR Behavior!
    Secondly, this article is about Christians being persecuted by Muslims , so lets try and stay in this decade,on topic, and not drift around over the last 2 millenia…
    Merry Christmas to all ,and remember that we celebrate the birth of the Savior Jesus the Christ in 2 days,not Santa Claus…

    Reply
    • Bill December 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Right on!!!

      Reply

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