Interview with Atallah Hanna*, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, on the current situation in Gaza and Palestine, as well as the decisions of local Christian communities regarding Christmas celebrations.
While Gaza is witnessing a massacre and a humanitarian catastrophe, and the West Bank is plagued by Israeli occupation forces’ abuses, incursions, and mass detentions, Palestinian Christians have decided to cancel Christmas celebrations. What can you tell us about this?
In solidarity with the victims in Gaza and throughout Palestine, Palestinian Christian communities, in coordination with Western and Eastern churches, have minimized Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem and across Palestine. This was a symbolic action to pray and show solidarity with the victims.
Are there differences between Palestinian Christians and Muslims in their relationship with the Israeli occupation?
Palestinian Christians and Muslims are one people. The occupation makes no distinction between us; it destroys our churches and their mosques. We are not a minority; we are the oldest church in the country, and our main concern is Palestine.
Why aren’t the voice and reality of Palestinian Christians considered by Western media?
Western media is influenced by the Zionist entity. Instead, they should spread the truth about Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people, not just against Christians. We are one people, and the truth should be known to Westerners.
Why are the sacred sites in Palestine, central to Christianity, forgotten by Western countries that declare themselves champions of Christianity?
Christianity was born in Palestine, and the West should remember this. By defending Palestine, Christians worldwide defend the cradle of Christ. The holy sites of Jerusalem are Christian heritage, and Palestine is the land of the oldest Christian presence globally.
From 1948 to the present, the decision to cancel Christmas celebrations has been made during the six wars we have endured and in two other very dramatic situations. We are going through difficult situations due to injustice and occupation, and the world must restore justice in the Holy Land to achieve peace. Without justice and an end to occupation, there can be no peace.
*At the beginning of 2010, the Orthodox archbishop addressed an appeal to the West, in particular to the Western Churches, asking them to defend Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause, a message from the Christians of the Holy Land to all Christians in the world regarding the need to take action to protect the holy places in Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem, due to the special religious status that the city has for all Christians in the world.
Atallah Hanna also called on the international community to take a just stance towards the occupation of displacement, suffering and racial discrimination that have afflicted the Palestinian people for over seventy years, stating that the military occupation of Palestine is a sin against God who cannot be forgiven except with just peace and the achievement of equality. In December 2019 he was the victim of a poisoning orchestrated by the Israeli authorities.