They Cry in Silence Nov/Dec 2003
In mid-July a Muslim convert to Christianity left his home and headed for a mountainous region of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. He took with him Christian materials, including audio cassettes, videos, and Bibles.
For ten days his family heard nothing from him and became increasingly concerned for his welfare. Their fears were justified. When he was returned home to his wife and two small children, it was in a box. His brutally beaten body had been carved into four pieces. The radical Muslims who murdered him were issuing a warning to other Muslims who might be inclined to listen to the gospel and become believers in Jesus.
It was also a warning to local Christians to stop helping converts from Muslim backgrounds who are persecuted by Islamic extremists in PA-controlled areas. In fact, some of these Christians have also been attacked.
Last year a Christian received a call telling him a Muslim convert was in serious condition in the hospital. On the way there to see if he could help the man, the Christian’s car was deliberately run off the road. The call had been a hoax designed to lure him into a position where he could be killed or injured. The same Christian was later hospitalized after another attempt on his life.
These attacks are reportedly the handiwork of the Hamas terrorist organization that receives funding from Iran specifically for this purpose.
According to the Sharia (Islamic law), any Muslim male who leaves Islam becomes an apostate and faces a death sentence. Although this law is not strictly enforced in some of the more secular Arab countries, it is being executed in places like Sudan, where Islamists are in control.
It is therefore not difficult to understand why so many Christians are emigrating from the Middle East. In 2002 the pope urged Arab Catholics to stay put and even announced a plan to deliver $400,000 in aid to Catholics living in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In spite of the Vatican’s incentive, the exodus has continued.
Significantly, the Christian population in the West Bank today is estimated to be around fifty thousand, or 1.7 percent of the total population. Fifty years ago 17 percent of those living in the area were Christians. A prominent religious figure in Bethlehem recently commented, “There is a new mentality that says Palestine is Islamic, making us second-class citizens.” Thus the outlook for Christians living in West Bank communities is not promising.
The fact that the inclusion of Sharia law will be basic to any future Palestinian constitution raises red warning flags for all non-Muslims living in the area.
During the negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, Arabs may give lip service to democracy to placate Western ears. But the facts on the ground are best seen by looking into the box containing the mutilated remains of a man who became a believer in Jesus and dared share his good news with others.
Neither Israelis nor Christians nor moderate Muslims nor people in the Western democracies can countenance the birth of another country with a deadly core of fanatic Islamic enforcers on the loose. There’s too much for everyone to lose.