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Palestinian Christians Suffer—and Many American Churches Don’t Care

We share the beliefs and traditions of Christians everywhere. Why do so many Western churches ignore us?

Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/Getty Images
A woman cries outside the historic Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City after an Israeli attack last October.

I have recently returned to the United States after completing a tour in the Middle East, which involved visits to Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt, focusing primarily on leading prayer summits for peace in my beloved homeland. The tour was in large part a crucial component of my ministry’s continuous work in the region. Almost everywhere we went, during the prayer events in Bethlehem, Amman, and Alexandria, fellow Arab Christians confronted us with a persistent question: Where does the church, especially in the West, stand in response to the injustice and carnage inflicted upon the innocent Palestinian people?

I am a Palestinian American Christian, born and raised in Bethlehem, and my wife was born and raised in Gaza. We both advocate for peace, and our loving families still residing in the West Bank and Gaza share the same pro-peace stance as do millions of Palestinians.

It was challenging to face this question, knowing very well that, while various opinions exist in most American and Western churches, a significant group either remains indifferent or unconditionally supports the modern state of Israel and many of its dehumanizing policies. Adding insult to injury, certain Christian evangelical leaders have employed the Bible to justify and rationalize the war in Gaza, as if it were a conflict between biblical Israel and God’s enemies. Some leaders have gone so far as to promote political ideologies and disguise them in biblical language. Furthermore, some have even outright dismissed and discredited the voices of Christian Palestinians.

However, the recent meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Palestinian Pastor Munther Isaac marked a notable change, as the archbishop initially declined a meeting during Isaac’s visit to London in February but later engaged in dialogue. This shift demonstrated a positive willingness on the part of the archbishop to address the concerns of Palestinian Christians regarding peace, justice, and the war in Gaza. The encounter symbolized a step toward fostering understanding and acknowledging the dire challenges faced by Palestinians in general and Palestinian Christians in particular.

Indifference is not an option. As Christians, we cannot afford to remain silent in the face of any injustice. Our silence will be perceived as complicity, particularly by those we aim to reach with the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

Antisemitism is pure evil, and as Christians, we must combat it and denounce it. However, contrary to misconceptions in the church and in the media, the Israel-Palestine struggle is not a religious conflict but a complex political dispute rooted in human rights violations and decades of injustice. I believe in Israel’s right to exist and live securely, and I certainly support our Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and a viable state. But we must reject violence, bloodshed, and acts of terrorism from any quarter.

For these reasons, it is imperative for Christians to unreservedly speak out against all forms of injustice, including the Israeli occupation. Taking a principled stand against oppression and discrimination is the core of the biblical teachings and the Christian message.

Under the Israeli occupation, I’ve experienced numerous hardships and pains as a Palestinian. My mother was shot in front of our house in Beit Sahour while trying to lead us to safety when Israeli soldiers were approaching the area we were living in. My father, who believed in nonviolence and refused to pay taxes as part of the “no taxation without representation” campaign in the first intifada, ended up in jail, and the Israeli army confiscated all our belongings. My childhood friend Salam Musleh was shot and killed by an Israeli settler when he was 14. But, despite all the hostilities my family has endured, we have chosen to heed Christ’s call to forgive those who trespass against us.

What we experienced in the West Bank is nothing compared to the current situation in Gaza. While the world is now aware of the mass killing of Palestinian civilians, and world leaders insist on not sparing them, many, especially in the United States, are unaware that Palestinian Christians are among those killed, starved, and left without shelter.

Christians have long asked the question of what Jesus would do today. And in the current war, I believe without a doubt that Jesus would be pulling the bodies of innocent women and children from underneath the ruins of their decimated homes and helping, feeding, and clothing the more than two million innocent civilians searching for safety, food, and shelter.

Jesus would likely visit the Christians in Gaza, including 25 members of my wife’s family, who have taken refuge in churches to pray for protection and deliverance from death. He would comfort the relatives of the victims of the devastating Israeli airstrike in October 2023 that claimed the lives of 16 Christians and severely damaged a historic fifth-century church.

The death and destruction facing Palestinians have not stopped there. On November 12, 2023, Israeli forces fatally shot 84-year-old music teacher and church pianist Elham Farah, leaving her to bleed to death for two agonizing days in front of her Gaza home. Nahid Khalil Anton and her daughter Samar fell victim to an Israeli sniper’s cold-blooded attack on church grounds on December 16. The Gaza Baptist Church, where my wife grew up, was bombed and burned. The nearly 1,000 Christians seeking refuge within the churches find themselves without access to adequate food, medical care, or even basic sanitation.

Nevertheless, I am confident that Jesus would passionately advocate for the release and safe return of the hostages held in Gaza. His compassionate nature would lead him to console the grieving families in Israel who lost loved ones on October 7. Furthermore, he would likely preach and reiterate the Sermon on the Mount, emphasizing the significance of peacemaking with the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

In pondering the persistent question regarding the silence of the church, I found myself grappling with a sense of shame as I attempted to deflect the concerns raised by our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

In recognizing the profound urgency of our times, I am unwaveringly convinced that as Christians, we must shatter the confines of our theological bubble. The Israel-Palestine issue demands a seismic paradigm shift—one that compels us to perceive it through a missiological lens. We must acknowledge the extent to which any misguided theology hinders the spread of the gospel in our cherished region.

Just as Jesus exemplified boundless compassion, we must recalibrate our theological compass, realigning our priorities with God’s agenda that transcends political, ethnic, and religious divisions. In doing so, we not only echo the teachings of our Savior but also sow seeds of reconciliation, understanding, and love in a world desperate for the transformative touch of God’s grace. Yet I recognized the urgency of the moment; our present suffering has little patience for theological discourse. Thus, all I could offer to the church in the Middle East was a simple affirmation: that God has not forgotten us in the Middle East; He will hear our cries, and He will heal our land.