The Forgotten Palestinian Christians: Their Resilience is a Testament of Faith

18 Dec

On Christmas Day, worshipers across this country will hold bibles that bear the faithful diligence of the forefathers of present day Palestinian Christians. Deacons, clergywomen, clergymen, priests, bishops, and cardinals will don their best ecclesiastical vestments that invoke Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery. Yet, few if any, will utter a word of gratitude or concern for the Palestinian Christians whose daily life and right to worship are an enormous challenge under Isreal’s military occupation.

mai abdul rahman                        December 2018

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This Christmas, like every Christmas before, Catholic and Protestant clerics will bear their ecclesiastical vestments that display Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery that was first worn by early Palestinian clerics, and will quote the scripture that was elucidated by early Palestinian scholars.

However, few if any, will utter a word of concern for the plight of the Palestinian Christians who daily struggle under Israel’s military occupation to worship and maintain Christendom’s first churches.

Ignored and dismissed they resiliently pray, advocate, and work for a just and lasting peace. Their access to their churches denied and right to worship is daily challenged, they continue to bear the heavy weight of maintaining Christendom’s first churches.

Meanwhile, more than many American church, pastor, and church leader are funding and feeding the frenzy of Israel’s extremists and settlers. Well aware that Israeli extremists and settlers view the Palestinians, their churches, lands, farm fields, properties, and villages an obstacle to their desire to seize and control the skimpy remnants of historical Palestine.

The Christians of Palestine trace their faith to the very first converts. Their willingness to adopt Christianity made it possible for the Christian faith to spread throughout the Near East, across the Mediterranean basin, Eurasia, and Africa. However, their mere conversion stripped their descendants of their right to their lands, freedoms, and churches.

Ignored and forgotten by church and cleric, Americans continue to ask Palestinian Christians “When did you convert?” Unaware, that the Palestinian Christians whether they reside in Gaza, the West Bank, East or West Jerusalem, or Israel represent the uninterrupted presence of the very first church.

The history and narrative of the Palestinian Christians dates back to the very first church and converts. Since the birth of Jesus on a clear night in Bethlehem, the Christians of Palestine have provided fellow Christians an authentic account of the early Christian experience. Early Palestinian Christian scholars helped clerics and worshipers contextualize the bible verses they cite and read.

Their close proximity  to the first disciples, early Palestinian Christians played a critical role in spreading the Christian faith, yet few are aware of their role and influence in spreading the word.

Palestinian Christians’ direct link to the first converts and disciples provided scholars and historians an intimate knowledge of the personal religious experience of the first Christians. Their accounts helped shape the Christian narrative. To date, they remain the living extension of the first church. For two thousand years, they have faithfully maintained the oldest churches in Christendom.

They have preserved the ancient gardens where Jesus prayed, tended and harvested the olive trees that shaded Jesus and his disciples, and when their communities are besieged and bombed, they have used their sanctuaries to shelter and accommodate the earnest prayer of fellow Palestinians- Christian or Muslim. However, their cries to be heard are muted, their faithful diligence is discarded, and strong desire to keep their churches open is undermined.

So why do most Americans choose to ignore and dismiss the Christians of Palestine? Palestinian Christians are an indivisible part of the Palestinian historical narrative, they share the same aspirations and struggles as other ordinary Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, and their  language is Arabic. Screen Shot 2018-12-16 at 9.08.26 PMAnd so is their “Injil” –-bible.

They are Arabs, with an Arabic bible, liturgies, and sermons, and Arab Semitic ancestral heritage are the core reasons they are forsaken and forgotten.

Christians owe much to the faithful work and witness of the early Palestinian Christians, and many a pilgrim owes  them and their ancestors gratitude for their persistent stewardship of Christendom’s first churches. Like their ancestors before them, the Christians of Palestine continue to practice their faith traditions and preserve their churches while living under an Israeli military occupation that limits their access to their holy places.

This Christmas like every Christmas  before, the Palestinian Christians will pray for peace for friend and foe, and will again commit to carry their faith and cross with grace. Their unwavering resilience is a beacon of hope for the free and the captive. Ignored and dismissed by their fellow Christians, they represent the best attributes of their faith and the Palestinian people.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!


2 Responses to “The Forgotten Palestinian Christians: Their Resilience is a Testament of Faith”


  1. The Birth and Life of Jesus is the Living Experience of the Palestinian Christians | American-Palestinian Women's Association - December 10, 2019

    […] in context and purpose is defined by their uninterrupted connection to the first followers of the Christian faith. During Advent, Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus and remember the real meaning of […]

  2. Christmas in Bethlehem is Unlike any Christmas in the world | American-Palestinian Women's Association - December 12, 2020

    […] observing Advent is defined by their uninterrupted connection to the first followers of the Christian faith and their daily hardships and witness to injustice. During Advent, Christians commemorate the […]

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