August 19, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 45

The Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah on Jesus and Jihad.

August 19, 1999
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 45

The Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, visited the Deheishe refugee camp in the Bethlehem District. He was received by district PA security apparatus heads and other dignitaries and he placed a wreath on the memorial to the "martyrs."[1]

At the ceremony, Patriarch Sabbah said that although this was his first visit to a refugee camp, he had long been feeling the refugees' pain. Sabbah said he himself became a refugee after the Nakbah of 1948 "when he escaped in 1949 from Nazareth to Beit Jala"[2] and that he still carried his "rations book" distributed to the refugees by UNRAWA.

Sabbah also stated that the international community must guaranty the refugees' Right of Return, which is "an existing fact that cannot be given up." He referred to Jesus' message: "I am here among you on behalf of the Messiah [Jesus]... I am a Palestinian who carries the message of Jesus, who lived as a refugee in a cave... Because of his great mission, Jesus was killed by those for whom he came to grant new life. The Messiah objected to exploitation and the violation of rights. Therefore, the refugee must demand his rights and not neglect them, because this right is from God.

Patriarch Sabbah said, "Love is power and Jihad and does not express weakness." [3]

Sabbah also called for "strengthening ties between Muslims and Christians and emphasized that Christianity believes in love because love is power. We always say: 'love your Muslim brothers.' Disputes that occasionally erupt [between Muslims and Christians] must be solved with mutual understanding, love, and cooperation." He discussed the importance of educating the younger generation in accordance with the principles of national unity [between Muslims and Christians] "in order to… build a new Palestine and an independent state after a century of bloody conflict... We live in difficult conditions and everybody should take part in this responsibility. Extracting our rights [from Israel] in all circumstances is a form of Jihad."

PLO Executive Committee member and PA Minister of Refugees, As'ad 'Abd Al-Rahman, spoke at the event on behalf of PA Chairman Arafat. Abd Al-Rahman described the Patriarch's visit to the refugee camp as "historical" saying, "the Messiah [Jesus] was the first Palestinian refugee, the first prince of peace, and the first Palestinian Fidaai [one who sacrifices his soul in the cause of Allah], who was redeemed through pain and suffering..."

Abd Al-Rahman added, "the Palestinian people only option is the Return. We long for our land, our houses, our property, and our rights, which we will never give up."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, one of the refugees gave Patriarch Sabbah the keys to his house in Beit Jibrin [Israel].

[1] Al-Ayyam, August 15, 1999, except where otherwise noted.

[2] Al-Quds, August 15, 1999

[3] Al-Quds, August 15, 1999

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