By Nadezhda Kevorkova – RT.com
The only Palestinian Orthodox Christian bishop in the Holy Land speaking about the suffering of Palestinian Christians, their unity with Muslims in the Palestinian struggle, about Orthodox Christian martyrs, and Ukraine.
Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.
Your Beatitude, what’s it like being the Palestinian bishop in the Holy Land?
Firstly, I’d like to confirm that I am the only Palestinian bishop in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. A fellow bishop is serving in the city of Irbid in the north of Jordan; and there are also several Palestinian priests.
I take pride in belonging to this great religious institution that’s over 2,000 years old.
My church has been protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the sacred items related to the life of Christ and Christian Church history.
I am proud of my religion and nationality, I am proud to belong to my fatherland. I am a Palestinian, and I belong to this religious people who are fighting for the sake of their freedom and dignity to implement their dreams and national rights.
I support Palestinians and share their cause and their issues. We the Palestinian Orthodox Christians are not detached from their hardships.
The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.
We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.
As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.
For those coming to visit the Holy Land there are few opportunities to see how hard the Palestinians’ situation is. What would you like to say to those wishing to understand better the Palestinian problem?
The Israel authorities treat the Palestinian people in a way we can never accept or approve, first and foremost because Israel treats Palestinians as foreigners, as if we were strangers in our land.
Palestinians have never been strangers either to Jerusalem or to the entire homeland. Israel is an occupation force which treats us as visitors or some temporary residents. But we are the native people of this land. We didn’t come here, we have always been here. In contrast, Israel appeared out of the blue.
They are treating us as if we came here from elsewhere, as if we accidentally and recently strayed into this land. But we are the rightful owners of this land. We didn’t intrude into Israel. Israel intruded into our lives in 1948, and in 1967 it occupied Eastern Jerusalem. We have been here long before Israel. By the time Israel came here, our forefathers had been living here for many centuries.
This is why we cannot accept Israel treating us like strangers to our own homeland. I shall be honest and say it over again: both Christians and Muslims suffer the same from the Israeli authorities.
Is visiting Jerusalem as difficult to a Christian Palestinian from the West Bank as for a Muslim?
They don’t ask if a person arriving from Beit Jala or Ramallah to Jerusalem is a Christian or a Muslim. They only ask one question, “Do you have a permit to enter Jerusalem or not?”
The pass allowing a Palestinian to enter Jerusalem is issued by Israel. No one can come through without one. In pursuing its racist policy towards the Palestinian people Israel disregards different confessions. We are all targeted just the same. It all depends on getting a pass, whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim.
We all are their targets.
On top of that, Israel took control of a lot of property of the Orthodox Christian Church and is interfering with the internal affairs of the Church. They put pressure on the Palestinian Christians in all sorts of ways trying to force them to leave.
There is only one cause of suffering for both Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.
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