• April 04, 2003
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    Palestinian Christian Urges Compassion
Palestinian Christian Urges Compassion

Forty-six years have passed since Palestinian lands were seized by Israel, and Massad feels his people have suffered in a way most Americans don't comprehend.

"What if someone came to you in the U.S. and said, 'God told me this home belongs to me -- get out'?" he said. "The media makes the oppressor out to be the victim, and the victim the oppressor. When you dig in and ask, 'How did all this start?' you realize Palestinians are a peace-loving people."

Because Americans have strongly supported Israel, and "haven't done anything to help the Palestinians," they are resented in his land, Massad said.

A minority among minorities, Massad is one of fewer than 3,000 Christians in the Gaza Strip, an area 10 miles wide and 30 miles long between the Mediterranean Sea and Israel.

The most densely populated piece of real estate in the world, the Gaza Strip has more than 1.2 million Palestinians and 5,000 Jewish settlers. Unemployment is 70 percent, and more than 60 percent of Palestinians live in crowded refugee camps.

Jews fled Germany during the Holocaust, finding refuge in Palestine, and the United Nations eventually divided the Holy Land, giving 48 percent to Palestinians although their population was much greater, Massad said.

In 1948, when the state of Israel was created, 700,000 Palestinians became refugees and have suffered under occupation since, he said.

"To be honest with you, I live in a prison," Massad said.

After marrying him in 2001, his wife, Suhad, went on a trip to visit her family in Jordan and was not allowed to return for 10 months because the Israeli Embassy refused her a passport.

Finally, Massad successfully appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court and she was allowed to return home.

Massad's message to JBU was that, "the minute I allow hatred to rule, I will not be effective."

Living amongst a population that is 99 percent Muslim, Massad has seen a backlash toward those who embrace Christianity.

After one of his friends converted, the man's father tried to kill him twice. Another had false information given to the Palestinian Authority and was imprisoned.

"Yet, what politicians are not able to do, God is doing already," he told those filling the Cathedral of the Ozarks. "There are three things God requires of us all -- to walk humbly, love mercy and do justice. Do you have room in your heart for your brothers and sisters, the Palestinians?"

The Morning News/NWAonline.net ? rmero@nwaonline.net

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