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February 3, 2006

Hamas Alarms Bethlehem's Christians

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

hamas_c.jpegWhile Israelis are struggling to "come to terms" with the election of Hamas in Palestinian elections last week, the Christian Arab minority, centered in the place where Jesus was born, is worried by the rise of the avowedly Islamist terrorist organization - Hamas.

The Palestinian draft constitution of 2003 established Islam as the official religion while noting that Christianity will be "equally revered." It also named Islamic Sharia law as "a major source for legislation," which Hamas has already announced to be the guide that they will apply.

Although the secular Fatah government, which drafted the language, posed little threat to the estimated 30,000 Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza, with the election of Hamas, some are wondering if Hamas will use the articles to make their daily lives more difficult. After all, according to news reports, even secular Arabs are worried about Hamas applying Sharia law, as they have already been warned about. But on the other hand, some welcome "a new sheriff in town," troubled by violence and bloodshed from rival factions of terrorist organization that permeate the entire Palestinian society.

Here is a slide show that will help to illustratewhy Bethlehem's Christians are worried. If you lived in this environment, and Hamas came to power, you would be worried too!

From the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs, we learn more of what's been going on behind the scenes up to now:

pal-christians-large.jpegLiving amidst a xenophobic Muslim population plagued by endemic violence bordering on anarchy, the Christians have shrunk to less than 1.7 percent of the population in the Palestinian areas. "Tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to live abroad, while those who remain do so as a beleaguered and dwindling minority," Weiner said.

"Their plight is, in part, attributable to the adoption of Muslim religious law (Sharia) in the Constitution of the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the Christians have been abandoned by their religious leaders who, instead of protecting them, have chosen to curry favor with the Palestinian leadership." Professor Weiner's book reveals and analyzes why this persecution - largely ignored by the international community, the media, and even the human rights organizations - has metastasized to the extent that it threatens the very existence of this 2000-year-old community.

Posted by Richard at February 3, 2006 8:54 AM

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