Christians in Palestine Concerned About Their Future

Analysis of Correspondent in the Holy Land

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JERUSALEM, NOV. 12, 2004 ( While Yasser Arafat’s burial was taking place in the Mukata of Ramallah, Christians of the Palestinian territories were wondering about their future.

Having become a small minority — 50,000 in the midst of more than 3 million Muslims –, the death of the president of the Palestinian National Authority has come at a time when the political, administrative, and police structures often discriminate against them,” explained Graziano Motta, correspondent in the Holy Land of Vatican Radio and of the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

“They have been continually exposed to pressures by Muslim activists and have been forced to profess fidelity to the intifada,” the journalist reported.

“Frequently, there are cases in which the Muslims expropriate houses and lands belonging to Catholics, and often the intervention of the authorities has been lacking in addressing acts of violence against young women or offenses against the Christian faith,” Motta indicated.

On several occasions, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who headed the Holy See delegation at Arafat’s funeral, personally asked the deceased leader to intervene, and had established with him “a friendly and direct relationship,” he continued.

“On occasions he intervened in some discussions between Christians and Muslims, especially in the region of Bethlehem, to proffer a solution and redress relations,” the patriarch himself said on Thursday on Vatican Radio. However, he did not always succeed as sometimes Arafat could not count on the obedience of the men of his apparatus.

“Arafat leaves Christians, and Catholics in particular, an ambiguous and potentially negative heritage in regard to long-term relations with the state entity,” he added.

“Considering Christians a part of the Arab socio-political reality in the struggle for independence, he tried to involve them as much as possible, exalting Palestine as Holy Land due to the presence of holy sites for Muslims and Christians, but without ever mentioning the Jews,” he said.

“And he ignored — and in practice boycotted — the proposal of a special status for the Jewish, Christians, and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. In the name of Islam, he was firm in his claim for Palestine’s exclusive sovereignty over the Holy City (Al-Quds).”

“He approved the draft of a Constitutional Charter for the future Palestinian state which did not take into account the secular and plural characteristic (that he said he promoted) to affirm the Muslim character,” the correspondent noted.

“This is in potential contradiction with the commitments assumed in the Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2000, which he promoted to imitate the Fundamental Agreement of 1993 between the Holy See and Israel,” he stressed.

This agreement “affirms the equality of all citizens, regardless of their religious faith, and respect of their freedom of religion and conscience.”

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