In the midst of violence, destruction and ugliness, beauty and unity are still found in the Occupied Territory of Palestine.
Being brown-skinned and brown-eyed, people that meet me almost always assume I am an Arab and a Muslim. Telling them I am a Palestinian Christian brings a shock to their faces. Most of the people I met in the last two years of being in the states were not aware of the Christian population in The Holy Land of Jesus.
Christian Palestinians make less than one percent of the population, but the shared land, culture and language are what bring them together with the Muslim majority.
I recently met Sajeda Issa, who is a Palestinian Muslim and a student at Webster University. We shared experiences and she explained her point of view on Christians and Muslims living together in the Holy Land.
“There’s no boundaries with living with Muslims and Christians in Palestine,” Issa said.
She explained how her grandparents are old-fashioned Palestinians who are traditional in their way of thinking and tied to their religious culture. She said she has never seen them differentiate between Palestinians according to religion.
“I’ve never heard them having any conflicts whatsoever with Christians. If they are to label people, it would be according to the village they come from, not by religion,” Issa said.
Growing up in Palestine as a Christian minority grants me a few privileges. The most significant one is the ability to get a permit to cross checkpoints between the open prison of the West Bank and the rest of the occupied Palestinian land.
Christians receive permits for all Christian holidays as well as summer vacations, whereas Muslims receive less permits to cross the border and visit the land. Most importantly for Muslims to visit the Holy City of Jerusalem which holds their Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of The Rock.
This act of discrimination between Christians and Muslims is intended to create inner conflict between the Palestinian people.
The occupation causes daily struggle for the Palestinian people as a whole, and there is no escape from oppression, tyranny and deprivation of rights. The oppressor knows no face. The bullet knows no religion.
The existence of the Israeli occupation of Palestine plays an external force which makes the connection between both sides stronger, Issa and I concluded. We are all targeted, and if one falls, the other offers a hand as a human being not under the label of religion.
In protests and such, we stand together, Muslims and Christians, we come together as Palestinians,” Issa said.
We are the people of the land, people of different beliefs but same values. People of different worship homes but people of prayer. People of a wounded land.
We are all human, each different and unique, but looking at the bigger picture as part of a group living in a country facing persecution and inequity, these differences melt away in the name of unity and resistance, for our human rights and dignity.
It is the moment when Issa and I shed tears and hugged one another where our different colors created a ray of light that touches the essence of humanity.