Persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been a recurring theme since the middle of the nineteenth century. Middle Eastern Christians are often portrayed as a homogeneous, helpless group ever at the mercy of their Muslim enemies, a situation that only Western powers can remedy. The Politics of Persecution revisits this narrative with a critical eye. In this webinar, Dr. Mitri Raheb charts the plight of Christians in the Middle East from the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 to the so-called Arab Spring. He links his talk to his book “Persecution of Christians in the Middle – Middle East Christians in an Age of Empire”.
This is a transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
Dr. Joseph Camillerri: Pleasure to be part of another webinar which, is the latest in a series of webinars that, have been held by the Movement for Liberation from Nakba (MLN) and today, as we’ve just heard we are going to deal with the politics of persecution, focusing on Christian Communities in the Middle East and how they relate to empire and what that means, not just minorities but, for the wider society in which they live. We have a very distinguished panel with us this evening, this afternoon and this morning, depending on which part of the world you’re from. I happen to be speaking to you from Melbourne, Australia on a very hot day, a series of very hot days and more in store for us, for better or for worse.
We have with us a very distinguished panel, we have Dr. Rev. Mitri Raheb, Prof Illan Pappe and Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, and I’ll have a word more to say about them in a moment, but, let me begin by saying a word about the Movement for Liberation from Nakba or MLN for short, it’s a network that has brought and is bringing together organizations and individuals from different parts of the world, in particular South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, UK, Australia, New Zealand, but other parts of the world too, and with one express purpose which is to raise awareness, raise understanding of the history of Palestine, the 1948 Nakba and its aftermath, the situation of the Palestinian minority inside Israel, and then the Palestinian people still in the West Bank – the besieged Gaza strip and the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees in different parts of the world. So it is a project that very much stands in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation, and beyond that it is inspired by and wishes to promote the idea of liberation more widely from colonial oppression wherever it occurs, in its various forms within and between Countries. Based very much on the principles of justice, compassion and the dignity of the human person. Which, unfortunately, in many parts of the world, as we all know are in short supply at this time. Our topic today is of particular interest because it touches upon the perspectives, the situation of relatively small Christian minorities but, they in this part of the world the Middle East, but obviously they have an important role, they represent one of the three major Abrahamic faiths, all of which had their birth in the Middle East. They raise very much the question of how these three faith’s live up to their extraordinary ethical and spiritual nobler foundations, the extent to which they do it, and the extent to which they might be able to do it together. So I’m sure the questions we will be dealing with, we will be addressing during this webinar will very much focus on what religion, in this case Christian faith, can do by way of standing in support of liberation and calling into question the foundations, the principles and the interests that lie behind imperial power and it raises the other question of whether and to what extent Christians and Muslims and Jews of faith and principled persuasion, understanding the highest ethics of their respective faiths which have great similarities and in many ways overlap, can come together in order to promote the principles the values and the reality of liberation and what that means for resistance to empire. Well, that is of course a rather big agenda, we may not be able to do justice to all of it, but, I’m sure our three speakers and in particular our guest speaker, will have very interesting insights to share on this question.
So without further ado, let me introduce the Rev Dr. Mitri Raheb, the founder and president of Darrell Kalima University, College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. He is a widely published Palestinian Christian theologian, he received his doctorate in theology from the Phillips University at Marburg, Germany; he’s the author or editor of some 40 books, including the Cross of Context, Suffering and Redemption in Palestine; Faith in the face of empire; the bible through Palestinian eyes; and I am a Palestinian Christians – Bethlehem besieged. His books and numerous articles have been translated into many languages, he has served as a Senior Pastor of the Christian Lutheran Church in Bethlehem between 1987 and 2017. Served as the President of the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land 2011- 2016 and in 2018, he was elected to the Palestinian National Council and to the Palestinian Central Council. He’s founded a number of NGOs including The Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World, he’s a founding board member of the National Library of Palestine and the founding member and author of Kairos Palestine. He’s the recipient of numerous awards and a frequent contributor to international media outlets. So, as you can see, we are very privileged to have the contribution of Dr. Mitri, so it’s with great pleasure that I invite you to address us.
To download the full transcript, please click the link: The Politics of Persecution – Transcript