I find it sad that so many areas in the Middle East that were historically peopled with Christians now find their Christian populations dwindling as people run from Islamic oppression and the poverty caused by corrupt governments. Bethlehem is one of those areas. Churches in the West need to take a lesson from stories like this as does our government.
The U.S. gives billions in aid to the P.A., and the people it’s intended to help never see a dime of it. Instead, Hamas hands out money to those Muslims suffering under a corrupt government, and by doing so recruit new members and take over large areas of Palestine. Since the Christians remain poor and their local governments are taken over by radical Muslims, they’re eventually forced to leave.
If our government won’t send aid directly to these people, perhaps our churches should. We can counter our government’s ignorant policy of funding terrorists in the Middle East by funding our brothers and sisters in Christ. The answer is certainly not to let Islam wipe out any and all Christianity in the Middle East, and especially in places like Bethlehem – the place where our Lord was born and a home for Christians in the Middle East for centuries.
Christians in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, are concerned that their city may slowly become an Islamic stronghold following recent municipal elections in which radical Islamic groups took a number of seats.
For the first time ever, Bethlehem’s municipal council now includes members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. With seven seats between them, Muslims have a near majority in the 15-seat council.
Christian candidates from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine share the remaining eight seats that are allotted to the Christians.
Christians are upset because the newly elected members will want to give a more Muslim religious tone to the municipality, said one Christian Arab with ties to Bethlehem.
People voted for Hamas because it is “being perceived as more pure, more clean,” said the Christian from Jerusalem, who asked not to be named. “[People] are angry over the corruption [in the P.A.].”
Bethlehem, a once-thriving, predominantly Christian town with a booming tourist trade and easy access to jobs in neighboring Jerusalem, now has high unemployment, cut off as it is by more than four years of violent uprising and now by Israel’s security barrier.
During what should have been the busiest time of the day, there were few people on the streets. Even though the sun was shining, many shops were shuttered.
Such circumstances provide fertile ground for Hamas, which draws the needy into the fold by providing social, educational and other services.
One Christian leader in Bethlehem said he was “very concerned” about the radical Islamic win in the municipal council.
“It will affect [the community] in the future,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “Slowly, slowly they will take over [and] have Palestine as an Islamic state.”
Hamas is working very aggressively on gaining control, he said. “That’s dangerous.”
Thirty years ago no one in the city had ever heard of Hamas; now more than 30 percent of the city is Hamas and it’s growing every year. They have the money. They help people open shops and build apartments, he said.
“They have the means to draw people close to them,” he said, and once the people begin to attach themselves to Hamas, then they fall under its influence.
“The Christians are sleeping. I blame the West for that. They are encouraging these groups in an indirect way,” he said. . . . . .
Talk to your churches and pastors about this. It is our responsibility as Christians to help those in need, especially within the body of Christ.