Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian pastor, travels to US to forefront plight of Palestinians and Christians in Gaza

By Daoud Kuttab

(RNS) — When the New Life Presbyterian Church in Atlanta invited the Rev. Mitri Raheb to speak at their Matthew 25 summit, he wanted his trip to the United States to be more than a single sermon at a church event. Palestinians were suffering from the carnage in Gaza, and he knew he had a bigger mission.

“I asked for and was able to organize visits to Washington where I met people at the White House National Security Council, as well as members of Congress,” he told Religion News Service in late January, after returning to Bethlehem from the U.S.

In his meetings with political officials, religious leaders, and anyone interested in talking to him, Raheb said he focused on two issues.

“Number one issue was the urgent need for a cease-fire in Gaza to stop the bloodshed, and number two, I wanted to remind our American friends that there are Palestinian Christians,” he said.

Raheb, who pastored the Bethlehem Christmas Evangelical Church between 1987 and 2017, wanted to bring home to Americans that the Israeli bombings in Gaza are decimating the already tiny Palestinian Christian community, with only about 1,000 mostly Greek Orthodox left in the enclave.

“Those who survived are taking refuge in local churches, while unable to move around for fear of snipers taking their lives — as happened to two women who left the church compound to get to the restroom,” Raheb said.

Born in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem in 1962, Raheb is the founder and president of Dar al-Kalima University in his hometown. He has written or co-written dozens of theological and political books on the situation of Palestinians in general and the theology of Palestinian Christians in particular.

His latest book, which he will be talking about in lectures at Harvard Divinity School next April, is entitled “Decolonizing Palestine: The Land, The People, The Bible.” The book, published on Aug. 30, 2023, challenges the weaponization of biblical texts to support the current settler-colonial state of Israel. Little did Raheb know that, a few months after his publication, the Israeli Prime Minister would turn to the story of Amalek to justify the killing of innocent Palestinians. His use of this passage in the Bible was part of the genocide case brought by South Africa to the International Court of Justice, which ultimately ordered Israel to take a series of measures to protect civilians in Gaza. >>Read More