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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Letter to our Muslim Brethren

1. Shared History, Present, and Destiny

1.1 When we, Christian Palestinians, engage with our Muslim brethren, we are engaging with our people, our neighbors and colleagues at work, and our partners at all domains of life, whether social, economic, political, or cultural. We are one people, one country, one language,

with the same traditions, anxieties, suffering, and aspirations. This is how we forged our history as one society and one indivisible being.

1.2 If history wanted for us to be as such, then the Almighty God, the Lord of history, wanted that for us as well. Our shared lives are not a coincidence of history, a blind destiny, or a passing situation. Instead, it is God’swill for us, and we commit ourselves to him and follow His

in gladness. This is precisely what we emphasized in our Kairos Document: “Our presence in this land, at Christian and Muslim Palestinians, is not accidental but rather deeply rooted in the history and geography of this land, resonant with the connectedness of any other people to the land it lives in.”1

1.3 As Muslim and Christian Palestinians, in the last past years we shared our pains and struggle and aspirations. Together we faced nationalistic challenges, and an aggression that uprooted us fromour land, restricted us in parts of our homeland, scattered us all over the earth, and forced us out of our houses, villages, and towns. We suffered together and pain united us.

1.4 We suffered together, our lands were seized, and we resisted the Occupation and entered its prisons together. Together we have given our lives for our homeland in order to restore our rights and maintain our presence, history and traditions, while seeking after a better future for our daughters and sons, and seeking after our freedom and dignity.

1.5 Our present is one, our suffering is one, and our destiny is one. On his Holy Land we are not “us and you”, as if we are sitting across from each other. Rather we are one people in one boat with no psychological or social walls and barriers that separate us. In this boat we live

1Kairos,2.3.2together and die together. If storms hit the boat, we willnot be ableto face them except by working together. If the boat was divided amongst itself, it drowns and we drown with it.

2. We Are Responsible for Each Other

2.1 All of this makes allof us living on his Holy Land-and in allof the Arab Countries- responsible for each other in front of God, history, and the world. In front of God, to whose will we submit, we stand in obedience and present ourselves before Him, and unto Him we lift our prayers and requests in spiritual solidarity where every one of us carries the burdens, pains, hopes, and aspirations of each other. When we stand before God, He will judge us according to what we have done to our history, heritage, and to the holiness of ourland. He willalso judge us on the basis of oursolidarity and attitudes toward each other, and on thebasis of whatour souls have gained or lost.

2.2 We are responsible for each other in front of history. We testify to this history that we carry, this present that we face, and the future we build together. If the willof God is the basis of our historical and civil heritage, it is also the basis of our present and future.

2.3 We are responsible for each other in front of the world. In front of the world we testify together to our history, and stand together to defend each other in front of anyone who desires to distort this history and deny God’s will for us. The world is looking at us and is trying to use our divisions to overwhelm and weaken us. Through our sectarianism and tribalism, the world is infiltrating us in order to plant and fuel sedition in our midst, and then watch us fight. The world would come after that, invileness, hypocrisy, and malice, and attempt to impose peace upon us on the basis of its own selfish interests.

3.Religious Extremism

3.1 Unfortunately a wave of extremism appeared in the last few years and it has been attacking all of us, and indeed attacking the whole world. This wave canonly lead to blind fanaticism, exclusion, and even death. This is what we can witness, in its harshest and ugliest forms and manifestations, happening in our countries and in the wholeworld.

3.2 This extremism, and fanaticism, has mercy on no one and it will lead our whole region, with its Muslims, Christians, and all other religious sects, into destruction. Religious minorities pay the biggest price due to this extremism, and our Orient is now threatened to become devoid of diversity and pluralism that have long distinguished the region.

3.3 Extremism and what results from it, whether death, displacement, kidnapping, or terrorism in the name of religion, are all evils against God and humanity. It is inconceivable that this phenomenon is God's will for our country, region, and the world.Oureligious heritage teaches us not to kill, but commands us to cooperate, know, and love each other. Extremism distorts the image of God and distorts the image of man.

3.4 It is inconceivable that God, the creator of man who breathed the breath of life in him, is the source of killing and destruction. It is inconceivable that Islam is the source of this killing and destruction. God created people equal and he has dignified them. God is the source of life, and Heis the only one with the right to reclaim it.

4.We Fight Extremism Together

4.1Our message in these days to ourselves as Christians and to our Muslim brethren is that we are one front, a front of life, in the face of this extremism.Together we reject extremism and together reject death and demand forthe life and dignity of every person. Our voices must rise together in the face of terrorism and extremism, while committing to the culture of love that encounters of all God’s creation. We are one front, a front of life. In it we stand against the culture of fear and terrorism,and declare to who ever wants to divide us that we are one front, one people, one country, and no one can separate between us on the basis of religion. Our humanity, culture, history, present, united struggle, and faith in theone God, the creator of this universe and the creator of man, are all stronger than extremism. Together we will stand against death, we will strengthen dialogue and our encountering of each other, and create fraternity and unity between us that respect all our differences as well as our agreements.

4.2 Together we will face the culture of separation, division, and isolation. Together we refuse the principle that says that “there are minorities that need protection”. We are all part of the soil of this land, and we are all the people of this land. Together we say with our poet Mahmoud Darwish: “we have work to do in our land. We have the past here. We have the first cry of life. We have the present, the present and the future”. Together we call for agood citizenship where everyone is equal, and where there is a law that protects everyone, and a fraternity that supports everyone, and where there is equality in responsibilities, duties, rights, and freedoms for all.

4.3 Together we face extremist interpretations of religious texts, and strive to understand them as God, in His goodness and unlimited mercy for people, wanted us to understand it so that we will find in these texts life for us and for all people. We also reject the violation of these texts

to be used for exclusionary interests and to become resources for death. Together we commit to providing sermons and interpretations that retainthe holiness of the text and the holiness of humans, and motivate the believer to serve his fellow believer and every person. We also call to review our educational curricula and religious text books sothat Christians would know that they and Muslims are one people, and Muslims would know that they are Christians are one people. Also, in order that everyone would increase in knowledge and understanding and appreciation of the other's religion, and that every person would study our shared history on this land, and that both Christians and Muslims would grow up feeling responsible toward their neighbor, and utilize their religious and humanist upbringing to build a society based on love, forgiveness, and fraternity.

4.4 Together we defend each other believing that the demise of one of us is our demise together. If adversity hurts one of us, it is as if it hurts all of us.Together we defend our Holy Sites and religious symbols against any aggression, assault, and distortion. Together we commit

to fight stereotyping, arrogance, and the culture of exclusion that are used in the name of religion, particularly as it is used in religious media. Some want to use it to create discord among us and as a tool to plant spite and negative stereotyping instead of being a tool that spreads love and concord. Together we call for acommitted religious media that respects others and their religious symbols, and promotes a culture of fraternity,unity, and shared living.

4.5 The times in which we live are crucial and fateful. Our time calls us to increase in faith before God and fellow man, and to increase our commitment in bearing responsibility toward each other. That could demand from us unprecedented courage where we have to stand in the face of those “from our household”and fight against exclusionary thought and any theology or jurisprudence that calls for death and extremism.The future of the whole region is on the balance and it is either we demise together or we fight together for the lives of our sons and daughters.

4.6 The circumstances in which we currently live are a trial for all of us.It is a trial for our humanity and faith as people, individuals, and believers. A trial is a test that God allows us to go through to purify us and remove from our hearts everything that could impede our path. Through that trial we could rise to the level of God’s holiness and sublimity instead of reducing the Almighty to the level of our limited vision where we carry death for each other. We are certain that God is giving us this opportunity to purify us from the inside. This requires us to create a new education that replaces sectarian negativities in the hearts of Muslims and Christians; an education that endeavors to create a believer that rises to the sublimity of his religion.In doing so, we create together true Muslim and Christian believers, just like we have created the history that has led us to where we are now: one people, one suffering, and one destiny. 

4.7 As we direct this call to our Muslim brothers and sisters, we recognize that our Christian history has gone through phases of extremism and killing in the name of religion, and that our Christian household is not without those who propagate a culture of apostatization and exclusion, and who use religion for selfish political purposes. Extremism has no religion and it is not monopolized by the followers of one certain religion.We are committed to continue examining ourselves and purge our household and theology from any manifestation of religious extremism. Together we will face any form of extremism that threatens the future of our land and the holiness of its religions.

5. Palestine Remains Our Compass

5.1 The Palestinian cause is passing through its darkest and most difficult stages, and every step we take in the wrong direction could lead us to more disasters. Our future depends on our unity and solidarity. Any deviation from this would backfire negatively and tragically on our national path. Our people have gone through a unique experience of pain and struggle, and have learned a great deal from it. One of the most important things they learned is that division and separation can only lead on destruction. When we stand together in solidarity and hold each other’shands, our nationalpath will be on theright course. If we are separated, we drown.

5.2 Extremism and theculture of exclusion, a postatization, and fanaticism that our region is going through could derail us, as Palestinians and Arabs, from reaching our first and chief aim, namely the end of the Israeli Occupation and gaining our freedoms and our right of selfdetermination. Palestine needs to remainthe compass of all Arabs, and Jerusalem must remain the symbol of peace, justice, and encounter between all three religions. This is the goal of every believer in God.

5.3 And from here we renew our vision for the kind of country we desire:“Trying to make the state a religious state, Jewish or Islamic, suffocates the state, confines it within narrow limits, and transforms it into a state that practices discrimination and exclusion, preferring one citizen over another. We appeal to both religious Jews and Muslims: let the state be a state for all its citizens, with a vision constructed on respect for religion but also equality, justice, liberty and respect for pluralism and not on domination by a religion or a numerical majority2.

5.4 In the end we say that the cause of the Palestinian people is not merely a cause pertaining to our existence, buti s also about our message. In this turbulent world, and in this region that is in search of itself in the middle of innumerable challenges, Palestinians are focusing all of their energy, religious, intellectual, creative or nationalistic, to serve their people, the region, and the world. We present to the world a model of a society that is able to contain plurality and use it to build our future and the future of the region and the world. What happens on his holy

land does not decide the history of its people alone, but also that ofthe whole world. The world began here, and in this beginning is the salvation of the world and our salvation.

5.5 And once again, we cry out a cry of hope: “we believe in God, good, and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate andof death that still persist in our land. We will see here ‘a newland’and a new human being’,capable of risingup in the spirit to love each one ofhis orher brothers and sisters3.

2Kairos,9.3.

3Kairos,10.

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