When I was in the Holy Land last February and was visiting on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, one of the other friars and I were by a window on the bus while we waited for others from our group to join us. We were wearing our Franciscan habits. Two young boys, maybe 10 years old, also wearing religious symbols of their own Jewish faith were walking by. When they noticed us, they looked up at us at spit at us. Just then, a breeze caught their spit and blew it back in their faces. Priceless! Read about this problem in Jerusalem.
I laughed at the incident but I was also deeply saddened. These were just boys who don’t know even know not to spit in the wind! Someone had to teach them hatred. Who did that? Was it their parents? Their friends? Their rabbi? Who? I have since found out that discrimination against Christians is quite intense in Israel. Yes, it is a “democratic” country and in many ways a great and amazing place. There are many things about Israel and the Israeli’s that I love. But religious extremists still make the country toxic for Christians, especially Arab Christians.
It’s no better in Palestine. Again, I loved my time in Palestine. Our pilgrimage group actually stayed in Palestine for 3 nights and loved the hospitality. But then again, we were well protected. Palestinian Christians suffer much persecution in Palestine.
This story becomes all the more vivid for me when I have to deal with one of my parishioners; Nergess and her sons who have been denied refugee status in Canada. I guess the Refugee Board looks at them and wonders how could you be a refugee from Israel? Her story is complex and quite dire. Her husband is a Christian in Egypt and suffers discrimination there because of his faith. If you are rich and Christian you can avoid some of the pain… but for ordinary people it’s hell.
I need to do something to help this family. If you can help or know firsthand about the discrimination against Christians in the Holy Land, please contact me: friar(dot)rick(at)st-bonaventure.ca