AMMAN, Jordan (RNS) — Yasmine Faraa, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, was angered when an Israeli missile hit a building belonging to St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, killing 18 and injuring 20.
Faraa, a Muslim, came up with the idea to hold a vigil outside the Orthodox Christian Church, in the Jordanian capital’s Sweifieh neighborhood, to show solidarity. The numbers that turned out for the vigil on Sunday (Oct. 22) surprised even the Jordanian police, who had initially decided that they didn’t need to block the roads leading to the church. The crowd was largely composed of middle- and upper-middle-class Jordanian families, who brought their kids and held signs denouncing the continued attack on Gaza.
After the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City — founded by Baptist missionaries in the 1880s and now run by the Anglican Episcopal Church in Jerusalem — was struck four days later, Mohammad Al-Momani, a former Jordanian deputy prime minister who is secretary general of the new Mithaq Party, quickly organized a small rally again in opposition to the war. (Israel has made claims that the hospital attack was a misfired Palestinian rocket, but this claim has not been confirmed either way according to major world media outlets.)
Christian and Muslim relations in the Mideast have a long history of cooperation, and the pan-Arab nationalist movement has always included Christian intellectuals, writers, poets, political leaders and professionals of all kinds. Faraa noted that in the 1970s her mother studied at the American University in Beirut, one of several leading institutes of higher education in the Middle East founded by Western Christian missionaries.
But these bonds have been strained in recent years by the rise of Islamic radical movements, which have sometimes attempted to create schisms within the Arab world. Radical Islamists discourage their followers from congratulating their Arab Christian neighbors celebrating Christmas or Easter. When Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli snipers in May of 2022, some cautioned devout Muslims not to call for mercy on her soul.
But Palestinians who had watched Abu Akleh on Al Jazeera for years, many of whom had no idea she was Christian, were outraged when mourners trying to carry her Palestinian flag-draped coffin to the Christian cemetery in Jerusalem’s Old City were disrupted by Israeli police.
The Israeli action in Gaza has now further cemented the bond between Arab Christians and Muslims. Arab Christians, meanwhile, feel increasingly alienated from their fellow Christians in the West, not least by the United States’ whole-hearted support of Israel from the start of the war. A statement by 12 Palestinian Christian institutions calling on Christian leaders to denounce the violence against Palestinian civilians has since garnered more than 15,600 signatures.
“We deeply mourn the death and suffering of all people because it is our firm conviction that all humans are made in God’s image. We are also profoundly troubled when the name of God is invoked to promote violence and religious national ideologies,” the statement read.
The statement concludes, “We refuse to give in, even when our siblings abandon us. We are steadfast in our hope, resilient in our witness, and continue to be committed to the gospel of faith, hope, and love, in the face of tyranny and darkness.
“In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land.”
(Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian Christian journalist, is a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University and a member of the Amman Baptist Church. He is on X @daoudkuttab and on Instagram & Threads @daoud.kuttab. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)