Friday, February 03, 2006

Bethlehem Under Hamas

Speaking of paying the Jizya, this story is disturbing on many levels:

While Israelis struggle to come to terms with the election of Hamas in Palestinian elections last week, another group also is worried by the rise of the avowedly Islamist organization -- the Christian Arab minority centered here in Jesus' birthplace.

The Palestinian draft constitution of 2003 establishes Islam as the official religion while noting that Christianity will be "equally revered." It also names Islamic Sharia law as "a major source for legislation."


"I know they are not Taliban," said one Bethlehem mother of two, who did not want her name used. "But I wonder what they mean by 'Islamic.' We are Christian, we don't want trouble."


"There are groups putting rumors into the minds of Christians, that there will be registrations," for example, said the mayor. "I say, 'Don't worry. Hamas has promised not to.' "

But there are those articles in the Palestinian constitution. And there is persistent talk about a tax, or "jeziya" that could leveled on second-class, or non-Muslim, citizens.

A Hamas member of the Bethlehem City Council, Hassan El-Masalmeh, told the Wall Street Journal in late December: "We in Hamas plan to implement this tax someday. We say it openly, everyone is welcome to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules."
I don't want to sound unsympathetic to the suffering of my fellow Christians, but my initial reaction is "what did you expect?" Palestinian Christians have been siding with the terrorists against Israel for decades. Now that they have come to power (although in the form of Hamas rather than the PLO) it is a bit late to wonder if the bonds of "race" are going to prove stronger than differences of religion. Especially when one of the religions is Islam...

Nevertheless, the Christians have a hope that the Israelis do not. I am reminded of the letter to the church at Pergamum in Rev 2:12-17. The Palestinian Christians have been tempted by bonds of the flesh, but Christ will not forget those who dwell in the Devil's country, yet remain faithful to the death. Martyrdom may be all that they can hope for in the near future, but it is still a better fate than apostasy.

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