An Open Letter to The "Silent Majority"
in Palestine and Israel
A personal work by Fr. Labib Kobti
An Appeal to the Silent Majority
Beloved Blood Brothers and Sisters,
In his Easter message of April 4th, 1999, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem made an appeal to the silent majority of Christians and Muslims. He commented on the last event in Nazareth, and the fear of sectarian violence in Bethlehem; and called for those Christians and Muslims to break their silence and speak out against the mounting tensions between the two groups in the Holy Land. At the same time, he blamed the decrease in the number of Christians in East Jerusalem on the policies of the government of Israel, which he said are forcing Christians to leave the city.
On April 5th, in response to the inadequate measures taken by the Israeli government to guarantee the safety of the people of Nazareth against the physical assaults of some Muslims, who have injured Christians, damaged and desecrated Christian symbols, the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, the Franciscan Custos and the Head of the Christian Community in the Holy Land jointly decided, as a symbol of protest, to close the Basilica of the Annunciation as well as all churches in Nazareth on the 6th and 7th of April.
In his Christmas message of 1998, the Patriarch spoke out against "outside fingers" who try to encourage divisions between Christians and Muslims.
We recall the report from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu of October 1997 which accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of persecuting Christians. Swiftly the Church in the Holy Land responded denying all of the Israeli report along with the clear message that Israel is trying to mislead world public opinion. The report and the response to it can be found at http://www.al-bushra.org/holyland/Opersecution.htm .
In October of 1998 the contention of the Israeli government was reiterated in another way. Once again the Church as well as many independent human rights organizations denied the Israeli report. Please refer again to the above Website.
Please recall that in 1996 a female Israeli Zionist extremist produced paintings which depicted both the Prophet Mohammed and the Virgin Mary as farm animals.
His Beatitude's call to the Silent Majority to break their silence and speak out, is a call to all the people of good will, before it is too late, to take a stand on this issue, whose aim is to divide the Arab Palestinian people against one another by way of religious divisions.
We fear and do not want a repetition of the same divisiveness which resulted in the civil war in Lebanon between blood brothers, to occur in Palestine. It took years and years for the proud and independent Lebanese people to discover that they had been duped, before they returned to peace between one another as real brothers and sisters.
(2) Brotherhood is Our Best Investment
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Brotherhood is the most important investment in our future together. Irrespective of the name you use for the Eternal One, be it God, Allah, Hashem or other, we have been enjoined by that power to live together. There is a reason for this. It is to bear witness to love and brotherhood and to show that religion is a way to meet, to share, to love and to cooperate, and NOT to hate and destroy each other.
Patriarch Michel Sabbah commented, in one of his talks some years ago: "We are called to love each other. We should educate ourselves to love. From the churches, mosques and synagogues, the same exhortation should be proclaimed: Christians, love your Muslim and Jewish brothers; Muslims love your Christian and Jewish brothers; Jews love your Muslim and Christian brothers..."
This mutual respect and brotherhood helped to build the independence of Arab countries of the region: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq... and is helping to build the future of Palestine. Both Muslims and Christians were intensely active in the peace process, as well as in the Intifada, as well as for reconciliation with Jews willing to build a real future of Justice, Peace and Truth. The blood of all our martyrs are mixed in the same soil. No one can separate the blood of those who died for a just cause.
Shall we institute this brotherhood as a prophetic sign for a better future, or shall we permit "outside fingers" to destroy our unity? What will the future bring if we really start to hate one another? What would we say to future generations when they ask why this destructive behavior occurred, when we purport that we are called on by God, Allah, Hashem to bear witness to love, cooperation and sharing in the Land of God, to whom the land belongs, and not to anyone, exclusively? Why do we allow fanaticism to take hold when we all know from experience that this is not the way, this is not what God wants of us? This exclusionist fanaticism is the will of only a small minority and that "outside finger" is eager to help promote this, in order that it may tell the outside world that Christians are persecuted by the Muslim majority, and that therefore we, the government of the state of Israel, are the only power needed to bring harmony and to defend the human rights of others. This is what was used as a pretext for the invasion of Lebanon, and we all know what happened there.
(3) The Prophet Mohammed and the Christians
In 628 C.E. the Prophet Mohammed granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of the St. Catherine Monastery at Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint judges and to maintain property, exemption from military service and the right to protection in time of war.
An English translation of that document follows:
"This is a message from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be upon them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs or their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them, nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the Muslim community is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."
- Muhammed (SAW)
May God's mercy be enough for the sincere love that Jews, Christians and Muslims have for him and may His grace shine upon all of His three children. From him do we originate and to Him do we return. Please read the text on the Website http://www.al-bushra.org/mos-chr/charter.htm
(4) How Should We Look to Each Other As Arabs?
We have been Arabs for about 6,000 years.
We have been Arab - Christians for 2,000 years.
We have been Arab - Muslims for about 1,500 years.
Our community as Arabs is older than our different religious communities. We have proved that being an Arab is more important than being either Christian or Muslim when we fought together against colonialism, and when we built our various countries. The colonialism of the past, as well as the present occupation do not differentiate between us. They see us as merely Lebanese, Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians... all suffering the same fate under the same circumstances.
The Arab-Christians are the minority; the Arab-Muslims are the majority. Arab-Christians were the first to build schools, universities, hospitals, and other humanitarian organizations. The majority of our Arab-Muslims used to study in these schools and do so today as well at such schools as Terra Santa, Montran, Freres, Latin Patriarchate, Orthodox and Protestant schools and colleges....some schools have more than 70% Muslim students. This is the same percentage as that at the Christian Bethlehem University.
The Arab-Christian investment in their home country serves everyone, not just Christians. The relief services of Christian institutions serve everyone equally.
If some Arab-Muslims suffer economic hardship, it is not because of any actions on the part of their Arab-Christian brethren. It is because of the economic situation in Palestine that is affecting everyone because of certain discriminatory laws of the state of Israel against all non-Jews [ Note: These laws never refer to "Arabs"]. And because the majority suffers more than the minority, it is normal. Christians are less than 2% in the Holy Land.
(5) With the "Silent Majority" We Believe:
(a) That the Christian minority of 1.8% of those living in the Holy Land is an alarming fact.
(b) That the decreasing presence of Christians in the Holy Land should be stopped. Several analysts predict that 25 years from now there will be no Christians living in the Holy Land.
(c) What is the Holy Land without Christians?
(d) That the Arab-Christian presence is an Arab and Muslim "RESPONSIBILITY" as well. Arabs and Muslims should help Arab-Christians to stay in the Holy Land and the Middle East and stand with them. The Arab-Muslims and the Arab-Christians should stand together as blood brothers and sisters.
(e) That we do not need the state of Israel to act as our protectorate. We do not need any protectorate. History has shown that protectorates cannot help but create divisions. We have the ability to protect ourselves if we believe that we are in reality, brothers and sisters, equal in rights and duties in our home countries.
(f) That opportunities for any kind of government or civil administration should be based not on religion but on the ability of the person to serve his country. These opportunities should be equal, just, where everybody feels himself at home.
I hope that the "SILENT MAJORITY" of our people will break their "SILENCE" (as some have done already) and speak out so as to rebuild confidence, trust, peace, harmony, cooperation and sharing between the blood brothers .
With love and respect,
Fr. Labib Kobti
Father Labib is an Arab-Roman-Catholic Priest from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. u
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