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Patriarch of Jerusalem discusses conflict and Christianity in Palestine

| Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Despite the desire for peace in Palestine, neither peace nor security has been won by the myriad of negotiations and wars of the past 70 years, Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said.

Twal delivered a lecture titled “Middle East Christians’ Future: In Whose Hands” on Tuesday at Hesburgh Center Auditorium as part of the 2015-2016 Notre Dame Forum “Faith, Freedom and the Modern World: 50 Years After Vatican II.” The talk was hosted by the Center For Civil and Human Rights, and Twal was introduced by University President Fr. John Jenkins.

Twal ministers in a part of the world where Christians feel oppressed and was trained as a Christian diplomat, Jenkins said.  Twal brings a message of peace, reconciliation and charity.

Twal first addressed the parlous state of the Christian minority in the Middle-East, with special attention to the situation in Palestine.

The Christian population of Palestine is a small minority, Twal said, and thus it cannot function effectively in isolation. The Catholics in Palestine alone operate over 115 schools, some of which have a majority Muslim student body.

“We cannot have a ghetto just for us Christians. … Our mission cannot know borders,” Twal said.

He said there are many perils for the Christian community of the Levant, such as the Israeli bureaucracy’s mistreatment of Christian and many Muslims’ apathy towards the welfare of the Christian community, calling the Church of Jerusalem a Church of Calvary.

In spite of all the suffering of the Christian community, it is impossible to live, love and work in Jerusalem without Jesus and the vision of the cross, Twal said.

“In Jerusalem, He prayed, He worked and He wept,” Twal said.

Twal said although the Christian community of Jerusalem is often subject to persecution, it is also unmistakably a church of resurrection, empowered by its proximity to where He rose.

“I too am anxious for the future but [also] hope for a bright future,” Twal said, referring to the future prospects of the Christians of Palestine.

Twal’s lecture also spent time on the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that fatally undermines Israel’s claims of democracy so long as the occupation continues, Twal said.

“The vast majority of Palestinians are fighting for the same things Jews did,” Twal said.

The rights Palestinians seek are the rights of democracies, such as dignity, respect and justice, he said. These were the same values his Patriarchate has upheld and promoted for years. While he expressed pessimism about the viability of a two-state solution, the fundamental problem is still occupation, particularly while Jerusalem is still occupied territory, Twal said.

“Much is spoken [of peace], yet we have none,” Twal said. “ … In Palestine, there is no more credibility in the speech of politicians, and thus, changes requiring great sacrifice must come.”

“In Palestine, one thing is clear: the cycle of degradation and violence must be broken,” he said.

Twal said, the Middle-East is beset by politic without ethic and the dangerous rhetoric of extremists, lack of education, and the reckless profiteering of arms dealers are all contributing to the current disorder in the Middle-East

“In Jerusalem we are closely watching the events in the Arab World…our hearts are filled with sorrow with our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence,” Twal said, “In Jordan we have 1,400,000 Syrians…last year we received 8,000 Iraqi Christian people…for sure Syria needs reform, but 200,000 [were] killed because they want to change this regime, and the regime is still in good health.”

Twail said the Middle East is beset by a dark past and dark present, and he prays for the emergence of a genuine leader. Although he believes an educated population is one key step towards justice and peace, it’s clear the road to peace in the Holy Land is a long and difficult one.

“[Being] fair and balanced … I’m not sure that’s possible when we speak about the Holy Land,” Twal said.

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About Devon Chenelle

Devon Chenelle is a senior, formerly of Keough Hall. Returning to campus after seven months abroad, Devon is a history major with minors in Italian and Philosophy. He can be reached at dchenell@nd.edu - On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées.

Contact Devon
  • Arafat

    Earth to Devon…Come in please.

    The land you’re referring to as Palestine is called Israel. Palestine never existed. There never were a people known as Palestinians until Arafat coined the phrase in 1967, or thereabouts.

    I always find it so amusing, in a perverse sort of way, when I read Christians writing in the defense of Muslims. Might as well take a gun and aim it at your head, or so it seems to me. I mean how many Christians need be killed in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere before you, Devon, notice a pattern? How many regions of the world must become devoid of their ancient Christian communities before you, Devon, notice a pattern. It’s not the Jews wiping out the Chaldeans, the Copts, the Assyrians, etc…It is the Muslims who are doing so.

    But that is besides the point, or so I suppose you believe.

    Catholics mistreatment of Jews in Europe is legion so it’s little surprise so many Catholics today side with Palestinians. It is not really about being fair, nor reasonable. It is simply an easy false meme for Catholics to embrace. Anti-semtism almost seems like a natural out-flowing of Catholicism.

    I mean let’s forget the fact that Israel has been invaded a half dozen times by their neighboring Muslim countries. Let’s forget the fact that Israel is a democracy and that none of their neighbors share this. Let’s forget the fact that Palestinians are citizens in Israel and are not so in any Muslim country other than Jordan. Let’s forget the fact that Palestinians are successful businessmen, lawyers, journalists doctors, professors in Israel but are not allowed to own land or go to universities in any Muslim country surrounding Israel. Let’s forget about the fact that before the IDF conquered Jerusalem (I should point out that this was after Israel was invaded by Jordan, Syria, Egypt and other Muslim nations) that Jews were not allowed to touch foot on their most sacred ground, but today (and at considerable expense) Jews go to great pains to ensure Muslims can worship at the mosque they built on top of the Jew’s second temple. But let’s ignore the symbolism as well as the facts surrounding all this.

    What would Catholics think if the Muslim invaders had not been turned back from their goal of conquering Rome and had instead succeeded in crossing over from Sicily, taken Rome and prevented Catholics from entering that city? Ah, but let’s not pretend we care about that for that would be hypocritical. And we are not hypocrites. Perish the thought!

    But, of course, something like that did happen when Islamic hordes took over Constantinople -Christianities second most important seat – and now Turkey as a whole is 97% Muslim and almost all the old churches have become mosques. Let’s fight for more of that sort of thing, eh? But this time let’s do it in “Palestine” {sic}

    But I digress. While Christians are joining the IDF in record numbers and more and more Christians are finally beginning to question their allegiance to a people (Muslims) who apparently relish in hurting them, let’s fall back onto the old false meme of it’s the Jew’s fault. After all, it’s a natural to do so.

    Devon, I’m just curious.. Have you written any articles about the tens of millions of refugees created by Islamic jihad over the past 60 years, that being the time frame Israel has existed? Or, have you written anything about the 700,000 Jews who were kicked out of Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Morocco and elsewhere when Israel was founded (legally founded I might add)? Why is it those Jewish refugees were embraced and became comtributing members to countries like France, America and, of course, Israel, while Muslim nations have allowed their brothers and sisters to suffer and fester in refugee camps for generation after generation?

    And, of course, this begs the question: Why is it these same Muslim nations, nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain etc…turning their backs on the Syrian refugee crisis today? Notice any similarities? Or is that asking too much?

    • Devon Chenelle

      Look up the difference between news and editorial. You’re taking issue with Patriarch Twal’s opinions, not mine. I get you apparently really needed to vent, but you have completely misinterpreted the purpose of the article, as well as my own views. Though I can’t resist the urge to correct some of your statements…

      “The land you’re referring to as Palestine is called Israel. Palestine never existed. There never were a people known as Palestinians until Arafat coined the phrase in 1967, or thereabouts.”

      1. Syria Palaestina was the name of the Roman (!) province for contemporary Israel/Palestine/Southern Levant/Philistinia/Canaan/Whatevernameyouwant
      http://web.archive.org/web/20090811054625/http://www.usd.edu/~clehmann/erp/Palestine/history.htm

      2. Palestinians are Arabs. Is that a sufficiently ancient ethnonym?

      “Catholics mistreatment of Jews in Europe is legion so it’s little surprise so many Catholics today side with Palestinians. It is not really about being fair, nor reasonable. It is simply an easy false meme for Catholics to embrace. Anti-semtism almost seems like a natural out-flowing of Catholicism.”

      1. I’m not Catholic.

      “But, of course, something like that did happen when Islamic hordes took over Constantinople -Christianities second most important seat – and now Turkey as a whole is 97% Muslim and almost all the old churches have become mosques.”

      1. Certainly the Turks’ conquest of Constantinople wasn’t a net positive for the Greek Christians of the Aegean and Black Sea littorals, the death knell for those communities was actually the mutually agreed upon population transfers between Greece and Turkey post WWI.
      2. While I’m open to the claim Islam is a more bellicose creed than average, the use of specific example here is problematic. Couldn’t “Islamic hordes” be replaced with “Christian hordes,” and “Constantinople” replaced with any variety of cities conquered and converted by Christian soldiers, e.g. Tenochtitlan, Cusco, Vilnius, Bulawayo, and so on.

      Funny thing is I suspect our (rather reactionary) views actually dovetail pretty closely on the Israel-Palestine conflict; I am actually quite Pro-Israel. Sadly, your abrasive approach and fatal misunderstanding of the nature and content of a news article damned any attempt we may have had at productive correspondence.

      • Arafat

        “Palestinians are Arabs.”

        Well that seems awfully convenient. Yet Jews preceded Arabs in Judea and Samaria by a thousand or more years. Does this inconvenient truth not mean anything to you, or do you pick your starting date based on what you want to believe?

        +++

        “Certainly the Turks’ conquest of Constantinople wasn’t a net positive for the Greek Christians of the Aegean and Black Sea littorals, but the death knell for those communities was actually the mutually agreed upon population transfers between Greece and Turkey post WWI.”

        Again your treatment of history is manipulated to support your false narrative. Wherever Muslim jihadists attacked, be it Constantinople, northern Africa, southern Asia the indigenous populations were destroyed. It did not take “population transfers” to accomplish this the Islamic tenets sufficed.

        +++

        “Couldn’t “Islamic hordes” be replaced with “Christian hordes,” and “Constantinople” replaced with any variety of cities conquered and converted by Christian soldiers, e.g. Tenochtitlan, Cusco, Vilnius, Bulawayo, and so on.”
        Yes they could if you wanted to ignore the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that Christians who conquered other people by force did so in defiance of basic Christian tenets and also defame the example Christ set. Muslims, in sharp contrast, were ordered to wage jihad as a means of creating the greater caliphate. Mohammed was no Christ and Islam is no Christianity.