Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, April 2012
Christ Was Never a Christian But He Was Tortured by Occupying Forces
By Eileen Fleming
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 9, 2012
For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday is referred to as "Passion Sunday" and it marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.
The biblical account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. They tell the story of when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving and covering his path with palm branches. The story goes that immediately following this triumphant celebration Jesus began his tortured journey to the cross.
The Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross; also called the Via Dolorosa, Way of Sorrows, or just The Way) is a series of artistic representations depicting Christ Carrying the Cross to his crucifixion in the final hours or Passion of Jesus before he died.
2,000 years ago the cross had no religious meaning and was not a piece of jewelry. When Jesus said, "Pick up your cross and follow me" everyone then understood he was issuing a POLITICAL statement, for the main roads in Jerusalem were lined with crucified agitators, rebels, dissidents and any others who disturbed the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces.
Jesus was never a Christian, for that term was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth a man.
Jesus was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.
What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces and teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant.
During my second [of seven] Reality Tours through the West Bank, I was introduced to Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center Contemporary Way of Cross.
The Sabeel way, transforms the traditional Christian tradition of meditating upon the journey that Christ took after his condemnation as he carried his cross to where he was crucified with an updated meditation on empire and occupation.
In Jerusalem there are fourteen plaques along The Via Delarosa hanging on the walls of buildings depicting where Christ may have fallen three times, meets his mother, is stripped, nailed and dies.
The Contemporary Way suggests fourteen reflections beginning with 1948, The Nabka: The Catastrophe which followed the failure of the UN partition plan of ‘47 when the Irgun and Stern Gang [Zionist terrorist groups] depopulated 400 villages and forced 726,000 Palestinians to flee to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
Station Two reflects on those refugees and the 460,000 more that fled during the War of 1967. Currently there are 675,670 registered refugees in the West Bank, 938,531 in Gaza and over two million in Arab countries who have never received compensation and have been denied the right to return as guaranteed in Articles 13 and 15 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in UN Resolution 194.
At Anata, [Jerusalem's refugee camp] The Wall is butted up to the boy’s high school. The 'playground' where around 800 male adolescents 'play' is in reality a slab of cement about the square footage of a basketball court and is walled in on all four sides by the high school, two small cement walls and Israel’s Separation Wall.
A refugee informed me that on a daily basis, "The Israeli Occupation Forces show up when the children gather in the morning or after classes. They throw percussion bombs or gas bombs into the school nearly every day! The world is sleeping; the world is hibernating and is allowing this misery to continue."
I wandered around taking photos and was warmly greeted by a teenage boy who asked my name and where I was from. I cringed when I said America, for I am ashamed that over one hundred billion USA dollars since 1948 has supported the occupation, promoted violence and helped build The Wall which is "financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile. The Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families' sole livelihood for generations." 
A five-minute car ride from the refugee camp, lies an Orwellian Disney Land of lush green grounds in the colony called the Pizgatzeev settlement. I was sick at heart and in my gut as I rode less than a mile into the colony and counted three playgrounds and a swimming pool. I still wonder how many USA tax dollars helped to build them.
As my Sabeel group was praying a gunshot issued from the Anata refugee camp, then another and another in rapid succession. I was told that the IDF was showering the refugees with gunfire and that terror is just a normal daily occurrence. I lost it completely then, and sobbed uncontrollably. I felt like the Magdalena when she could not find her Lord, and then I thought of Jesus, and how he cried buckets of tears over Jerusalem.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.-Luke 19:41
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." -Matthew 23:37
While in Bethlehem in July 2007, I also met with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, the Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas church in Bethlehem since 1988 who was also born in that little town in Occupied Territory.
Raheb spoke with passion:
"We are not spectators, we have a role to play…we are nonviolent but I have problems with nonviolence; people from abroad come here and give us sermons on nonviolence and I appreciate it, but why don't they preach nonviolence to Israel and America?
"It's a miracle that the Palestinians are so nonviolent in spite of the abuse we live with on a daily basis. If you lived here every day you would get fed up too. The world assumes it is the Palestinians who are the violent ones, but nonviolence is who we are. If you operate in a system of violence you will also be violent when you go home.
"Palestinians who throw stones; and many think that is ok, but I say why do that? One day you will throw stones at Palestinians too and that is exactly what happened in Gaza, but the reason is the occupation! Where do you think Hamas learned to torture? In Israeli prisons from their captors!
"There is no way to end the violence without first ending the occupation!
"Our Palestinian government was boycotted for a year and a half by America and the EU: this is violence! As long as the violence is exercised against us that is OK with the world. When the Presbyterians talked divestment the Zionist rose up and said 'you can't do that!'
"I started interfaith dialogue in 1985 because Christians should not be islands and you don't dialogue just with yourself, you must dialogue with the other and the biggest temptation for the church is to stay within their walls and only be dedicated to their own members; which leads to a dead church.
"We are called to go out, and we do not just preach with words, people here are fed up with words; they hear one thing and see another with their eyes.
"They hear peace, peace, peace and for 85 years the politicians have been working for peace and the situation gets worse. Blair, and all the politicians are into PR for themselves; they do nothing for our situation. Blair got himself a good job marketing himself and he will come and go and Israel will continue building the wall, settlements and carving the West Bank into Swiss cheese; Israel gets the cheese and we Palestinians fall into the holes!
"Fifty million American dollars went to build the checkpoints to 'make our lives easier' we were told, but these checkpoints and terminals are not for people, they are for cattle!
"We have too much religion and it suffocates us! If God would speak today he would say, 'I am fed up with your religion!' The more religion there is; the less spirituality.
"During the Israeli invasion in 2002 when the Church of Nativity was occupied by the IDF and Palestinians were sheltered within, as an eyewitness I wrote 18 short stories that will keep you awake at night, in my book "Bethlehem Beseiged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble." 
One of the refugees I spoke with in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp told me, "I left Gaza on March 20, 2007. My husband has been there ever since he was sent there in 2002, after Bethlehem was besieged.
"It began on an ordinary day, helicopters and airplanes circled above and tanks came up the street. The soldiers were on the roof and breaking in doors and through walls. The resistance fighters and many young people ran to Manger Square. The soldiers stole money and jewelry. The Franciscan father Abraham Feltus sheltered my husband in the Church of the Nativity. After it was all over, I went and prayed and lit candles there."
Reported by the National Catholic Reporter on 4/26/2002, "the standoff between the Israeli Defense Force and the 250 Palestinians holed up inside the church along with 45 monks, nuns and priests…is taking a toll on both those inside the church and without. Bethlehem residents living near Manger Square, where the church is located, continue to live under curfew. The Israeli army has said it will continue its siege, which began April 3, until it captures about 30 men inside the church whom the army says are wanted as terrorists.
"Reached by telephone April 16, Franciscan Fr. Amjad Sabbara, parish priest at St. Catherine's Church, the Latin church that adjoins the 1,400-year, old Orthodox basilica enshrining Christ's birthplace, said the most serious problem for all those at the Church of the Nativity is water. The Nativity complex, which includes Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian monasteries in addition to the basilica, has one well. With some 250 more people now living there, water is running low. So far, the Israelis have permitted the delivery of a crate with 20 bottles of water, but no food. Sabbara reported that those inside the church are living on one meal a day.
"A youth who escaped from the Church of the Nativity April 15 provided a fuller picture of the squalid conditions inside the church. In an article printed in The New York Times April 17, 16-year-old Jihad Abdul Rahman said cold and the stench from rotting bodies and gangrenous wounds drove him from the church. There was no water for washing and only one toilet for the 250 Palestinians taking shelter inside the church, Rahman said.
"Dwindling supplies of food and water are not the only problems those inside the church are contending with. The Israeli army is exerting psychological pressure by blasting loud music and shrieking cries at night as well as intermittent demands to those inside the church to give themselves up.
"It's the Noriega technique," said Bethlehem resident Br. Kenneth Cardwell, referring to the tactics the U.S. government adopted in its efforts to dislodge former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega from the Vatican embassy in Panama City where he sought refuge in 1989.
"They play really repulsive music very loudly. They broadcast loud commands to surrender in the middle of night. They explode huge explosive charges and then lesser flash-bangs I call them. We're a half-mile away and we wake up five, six times a night with this racket. There are blimps with a cable below. There's been a drone flying overhead all day today. Yesterday colored gasses wafted across the square," Cardwell said.
He added that a box dangling from a large crane the Israeli army has brought into or close by Manger Square "gave a laser light show the other night and that was pretty exciting…all the computers of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem have been destroyed in what he called a deliberate attempt by the Israeli government to destroy the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority."
Cardwell added, "We watch on TV the great support Israel is receiving from the Jewish people in the United States. If they only knew what this government is doing to the Palestinian people, they would repent in dust and ashes. American Jewry has a very high sense of moral responsibility for the widow, the stranger and the orphan, and they just are blind to what the Israeli government is doing." [IBID]
Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy ends his emails with:
"Jesus did not simply 'suffer and die,' just as Abel did not simply 'suffer and die.' Jesus was 'tortured and murdered,' and He responded to His torturers and murderers with a Nonviolent Merciful Love. 'Suffered and died' are minimizing, obscuring, evasive, amnesia-inducing, all-purpose, generalizing words. They do not convey properly the Gospel history of what took place on Golgotha. They do not convey properly the revelation and glory of God in Jesus during His final hours on earth, nor do they convey properly the revelation of the redeeming and redemptive Way of God through Jesus. The raw animal pain of suffering and death is not what saves. Identification with Jesus being tortured and murdered is identification with Jesus loving—loving the Father by doing the Father's will and loving those responsible for His torture and murder. Communion with the tortured and murdered and risen Jesus Christ is communion with a love that conquers any evil and is stronger than death."- Center for Christian Nonviolence
Jesus is also called The Prince of Peace and although I no longer attend or support any church institution, because I love Jesus and try to follow him, I am connected to the mystical Body of Christ and the most rigid of Christian fundamentalists are my sisters and brothers.
St. Paul, who never failed to express his freedom of speech, warned the followers of Christ, NOT to judge the unbeliever but to provoke the believer onto good works.
Ever since my first trip to Israel Palestine in 2005, my work, hope and prayer has been to mend, heal and repair the flabby Body of Christ in the West by trying to reconnect it to its very roots in the land where Jesus walked and taught that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God; not those that bomb, torture or occupy others.
The Christian EXODUS from the Holy land-which is in pieces; Bantustans, has rendered their numbers from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948. Their dwindling numbers are due to low birth rates coupled with their escape from a brutal, inhumane military occupation, which is aided and abetted by American foreign policy and 'we the peoples' tax dollars.
Every individual Christian is but one cell in the cosmic Body of Christ.
"So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." -Romans 12:4
"Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part [of The Body] suffers, every part suffers with it."-1 Corinthians 12:25-26
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and all the prophets said, "You will recognize the believers in their having Mercy for one another, and in their Love for one another, and in their Kindness towards one another; like the body, when one member of it hurts, the entire body hurts."
In the gospel [good news] told in Mark 3: 31-35, the mother of Jesus' and his brothers arrived at the house where he was teaching.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him out. The crowd around Jesus told him, "Your mother, sisters and brothers are outside asking for you."
Jesus replied, "I am here with my mother, sisters and brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother."-Mark 3: 31-35
"What does God require? He has told you o'man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord." - Micah 6:8
Being just means correct, true, accurate, right and fair.
Merciful is to have, feel and show compassion, that sense of viscerally feeling the pain of another and being moved to help.
Being humble is knowing yourself-the good and the bad-for both cut through every human heart and all FREE WILL means is we get to choose which rules ours.
I am Eileen Fleming and I approve of all of my messages.
1. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Page 43, Jan/Feb. 20072. MEMOIRS of a Nice Irish-American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory
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