A number of Christian families have finally decided to break their silence and talk openly about what they describe as Muslim persecution of the Christian minority in this city. The move comes as a result of increased attacks on Christians by Muslims over the past few months. The families said they wrote letters to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican, Church leaders and European governments complaining about the attacks, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
According to the families, many Christians have long been afraid to complain in public about the campaign of "intimidation" for fear of retaliation by their Muslim neighbors and being branded "collaborators" with Israel. But an increase in attacks on Christian-owned property in the city over the past few months has encouraged some Christians to talk about the ultra- sensitive issue. And they are talking openly about leaving the city.
"The situation is very dangerous," said Samir Qumsiyeh, owner of the Beit Sahur-based private Al- Mahd (Nativity) TV station. "I believe that 15 years from now there will be no Christians left in Bethlehem." Qumsiyeh has been the subject of numerous death threats. His house was recently attacked with fire-bombs, but no one was hurt. Qumsiyeh said he has documented more than 160 incidents of attacks on Christians in the area in recent years. He said a monk was recently roughed up for trying to prevent a group of Muslim men from seizing lands owned by Christians in Beit Sahur. Thieves have targeted the homes of many Christian families and a "land mafia" has succeeded in laying its hands on vast areas of land belonging to Christians, he added.
Edward Salama said the problem in the city was the absence of law and order. "We are living in a state of chaos and lawlessness," he said. "The police are afraid of the thugs who are taking our lands." Salama expressed deep concern over the conditions of Christians in Bethlehem, noting that many were leaving the country as a result of the deterioration.
Unfortunately, Christian leaders and spokesmen are afraid to talk about the problems we are facing. We know of three other Christian families - Salameh, Kawwas and Asfour - whose lands were also illegally seized by Muslims. A Christian businessman who asked not to be identified said the conditions of Christians in Bethlehem and its surroundings had deteriorated ever since the area was handed over to the PA in 1995. "Every day we hear of another Christian family that has immigrated to the US, Canada or Latin America," he said. "The Christians today make up less than 15 percent of the population.
Of course not all the Muslims are responsible, but there is a general feeling that Christians have become easy prey for Muslim thugs. (Jerusalem Post)
• Christian persecution in Bethlehem is being ignored by the supposed moderate government of Mahmood Abbas, head of the PA. This is the man whom the US is calling moderate, supplying him with thousands of rifles, bullets, and money. One of the reasons America has so many problems in the Middle East is that she often backs the enemies of Israel in the name of moderation and politics and a false peace. The US State Department seems not to know the truth from deception. Pray for the safety of and the Lord's protection over the Christians in Bethlehem. Declare that the streets of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, are free from persecution. Pray for the salvation of the Moslems, thugs and "moderates" alike, for they are doomed without Jesus as their Lord and Savior. • "Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion." (Psalm 129:5)