Rev. Johnnie Moore accused Hamas of cutting off Christmas lights in Bethlehem, blaming the Palestinian Authority for the lack of Christmas festivities.
The Christian population in Bethlehem has significantly declined, while Israel’s Christian population has grown.
Some attribute the cancellation of Christmas festivities to the ongoing conflict and tragic events, leading to a decline in Christian life in Bethlehem. (Trending: Trans Athlete Breaks College Record After Joining Women’s Team)
Rev. Johnnie Moore said, “It is Hamas, not Israel, which cut off the Christmas lights in Bethlehem. Hamas tried to sabotage Christmas in the Holy Land for the world’s 2 billion Christians.”
“Jesus is the prince of peace. Hamas hates peace,” continued the president of the Congress of Christian Leaders.
“Instead of taking a page from Hamas by further politicizing religion, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and in Bethlehem should have defied Hamas’ hate by having the biggest celebration they could imagine to spread the message of the Prince of Peace, Jesus … from Bethlehem,” added Moore.
“But, that’s fine. One only has to drive a mile to Jerusalem where Christmas is alive and well. Jerusalem is alive with holiday celebrations because Israel is, even now, fiercely protecting its sanctity during this time of terror and war. Or, if you want a dose of hope that peace is not only possible but will come, then drive up north to beautiful Haifa. It is a city where Jews, Christians and Muslims live in peace with one another and not only side-by-side but by sharing their lives, joys and sorrows together,” explained the Christian leader.
The situation is complex, involving political, religious, and historical factors.
Rev. Petra Heldt said, “The PA [Palestinian Authority] ordered the demolition of Christmas decorations in Bethlehem. This came in the wake of the statements of the heads of churches in Jordan (Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic; they have churches in Gaza) on Dec. 1. The statement is written in the spirit of Hamas, if not dictated by Hamas.”
“The heads of churches are hostages of Hamas,” explained Heldt.
“In Jerusalem, the Orthodox and the Catholics do not take their statements too seriously. For instance, yesterday the Catholic Church and the International Christian Embassy joined forces in a joyful open Christmas sing-along in Mamilla Mall. There is a huge Christmas tree in front of the YMCA in King David Street,” added the scholar.
“There are no reliable figures for the numbers of Christians in Bethlehem,” said Heldt.
“The numbers are extremely low in comparison to 1993, before [the Oslo Accords established a peace framework between Israel and the Palestinian leadership]. Conservative estimates speak of 5% of Christians in Bethlehem as [contrasted] to some 90-plus percent before 1993. The hardship for Christians in Bethlehem is beyond words. Fear, threats and intimidation is the norm, not because of Israel, because of the PA,” she continued.
The Rev. Dr. Jack Sara, the general secretary of the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical Alliance, said, “Sadly, this is not the first time that Palestinian Christians have decided to cancel all the festivities in Bethlehem.”
“It was done before, during the first intifada and second intifada, and now,” added Sara.
“The reasons are obvious. How can Christians celebrate when their own people are going through such tragedy? It’s tragedy after tragedy. We lament the killing of all civilians, including those who fell on the 7th of October. But what followed that is also very tragic and makes us lament more innocent lives, over 20,000 now, over 1.5 million refugees; and, in addition, even our Christian community in Gaza is struggling to survive because of the war on Gaza,” explained Sara.
“True, but the numbers were higher before 1948 and before 1967,” said Sara.
“I don’t believe it’s related to the Oslo agreements, the Christians’ numbers dwindled always, even in what we call ‘better time,’ meaning no escalation of the conflict,” added the educator.