Tuesday, June 24, 2014

People Without A Nation (By Trevecca Okholm)

Personal Reflections on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the PC/USA vote for Sanctions

I did not support the overture; however, that does not mean that I am not aware of and sympathetic to the issue. I have a very personal and direct relationship to the suppression and persecution suffered by the Palestinian people - specifically the Palestinian CHRISTIAN people.

About 23 years ago while traveling and teaching with a Wheaton College summer abroad program, Dennis and I were invited into the home of a Palestinian Christian where, along with some of our students, we connected with a young man named Yohanna Katanacho, a Palestinian Christian who grew up in the old city, living on the Via Delarosa in apartments owned by the Catholic Church. Due to persecution by Israeli government, Yohanna’s family finally pulled up roots and moved to Australia to avoid further persecution. Yohanna remained behind in Jerusalem where he suffered regular persecution and was considered to be a “non-citizen” since he was a Palestinian living in his Palestinian “homeland” in the nation that was now named “Israel.”

Along with all of his Palestinian brothers and sisters, he could not even obtain a Passport in order to travel freely. Why? Because the Palestinians had become a people without a nation.

Through Wheaton College we were instrumental in helping Yohanna get accepted into the Institute of Holy Land Studies where he earned a degree. After that we appealed to Wheaton College on Yohanna’s behalf for a scholarship, Yohanna was accepted into the program and we invited him to come and live in our home for 11 months. (A wonderful influence, by the way, on our then high school children.) When it came time for Yohanna to graduate, Wheaton expected him to march into his graduation under the flag of the nation Israel…one more slap in the face, even from a Christian institution, saying to him that he is a non-citizen living in a non-nation. (Sadly, those coordinating the graduation could not understand why that would be offensive to Yohanna!)

 After Wheaton, Yohanna went on to earn a MA and a Ph.D. at Trinity International University and returned to his homeland to peacefully work for the freedom of Palestinian Christians as a professor at Bethlehem Bible College and now as Academic Dean of that institution. Yohanna has written numerous articles & books and now speaks internationally.

I am not ready to commit to calling the Israeli treatment of Palestinians an “apartheid” state as Tutu encourages; however, I am interested in seeking to understand more of what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters at the hands of secular Israeli government and I am most assuredly concerned with the unfair labeling of a people that are misunderstood and written off by American “Christians.” Here is an organization endorsed by our friend Yohanna that I believe should at the very least be considered by us in the West. http//www.kairospalestine.ps/

By the way, about 80% of those claiming the Christian religion in Israel are Arab (i.e. Palestinian). That means that the majority of our Christian brothers and sisters living in that nation are Palestinian…not Jewish, and it concerns me that American Christians treat them (their own Palestinian Christian brothers/sisters) as “the enemy” and the Jews (mostly secular Jews) as “the chosen people of God.” And yes, I recognize the atrocities on BOTH sides from mostly non-Christian Palestinians and secular Jews alike.  

From Trevecca Okholm  

Trevecca Okholm is a certified Christian educator who has taught in several churches in Orange County - e.g. St. Andrews Pres. She serves on the Strategic Coordinating Team of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. Trevecca is the author of Kingdom Family: Re-Envisioning God's Plan for Marriage and Family.  Her book addresses the cultural influences that have taken our focus away from God's intended purpose for marriage and family and, through analysis and practical suggestions, recalls marriages and families to the purpose for which God intended them in the first place--namely, to serve God's Kingdom as witnesses to a world desperately seeking deeper purpose and authenticity.

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