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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Christian Arabs appeal to Vatican for aid, saying 'we are a dying congregation'

The number of Christian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has been plummeting since Yasser Arafat and his Tunisian thugs entered the Gaza Strip in 1994. Now, the Christian Arab community has appealed to the Vatican for help. But NOT for help in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza. They want help in the Galilee.... HaAretz reports:

Dr. Raed Mualem, head of the Mar Elias University Campus in Ibillin, has called on the Vatican to become more involved in the needs of the Christian Arab community in Israel.

Mualem returned several days ago from a visit to the Vatican as a member of a small delegation that met with representatives to the assembly of organizations for aid to the Eastern churches, which includes 130 cardinals and bishops from around the world and is headquartered at the Vatican. The assembly discusses urgent topics concerning Catholic churches in the Middle East, including Israel, and occasionally supports projects for the Israeli congregation.

Mualem said this involvement has barely been felt in the region. "Christianity began in the Galilee, not in Rome or Paris, but over the years the facts have been blurred to such a degree that the Christian Arab congregation in the Galilee has become completely inconsequential. There is no direct contact between the West and the congregation that is supposed to constitute a bridge to peace and tolerance. The pilgrims come to Israel to visit churches and sites, but we the living stones are not on their agenda, and with the disregard or poor treatment by the Israeli establishment, this congregation is gradually losing strength and even numbers as the waves of migration to the West continue."

According to Mualem's data, the migration rate among Christian Arabs is 25 percent, and Christian Arabs in Israel will constitute a mere 0.4 of the population by 2020, down from 1.7 percent today.

Mualem attended the assembly accompanied by Father Maher Abud, the parish priest of St. George's Catholic Church in Maghar. The Christian congregation of Maghar held special prayers yesterday to mark a year since the clashes with Druze that damaged Christians' property and caused many to leave. Abud spoke at length about the social and political reasons that led to violence, and presented a dismal view of Israel's failure to protect its minority citizens and slowness in bringing the offenders to justice and compensating the victims. [I would suggest that he compare Israel's performance with that of any of its neighbors. Also, he should note the sources of the violence, which are almost inevitably Muslim Arabs. CiJ]

The crisis facing the congregation did not begin last year, Mualem said, but the events at Maghar underscored and exposed them. He whipped out a pamphlet containing a proposal, submitted to the Prime Minister's Office in June 2004, for strengthening the Christian Arab congregation. Mualem presented the highlights of this proposal at the Vatican. Demands include direct support for congregation institutions, beginning with local authorities, support for private hospitals, schools, the Mar Elias Campus and plans to found a university near the Western Galilee Christian village Mailia, building a Christian Arab cultural center, setting up television and radio stations, a high-tech center to develop pharmaceutical drugs for export to Third World countries, and a forum for bolstering tourist and other ties to the Christian world.


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