Abrahamic Faith Perspectives


According to a 2001 survey, 76% of the people in the United States identify themselves as Christian. Roughly 30% of the American population are evangelical Christians whose beliefs generally include a literal interpretation of the Bible, a preference for creationism or intelligent design over evolution and a belief that Jerusalem must remain undivided as a part of Israel. Most of evangelicals also believe that God promised the Holy Land to the Jews, so although they may sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians they feel obliged to honor what they believe is the Word of God. This group of evangelical Christians is a powerful influence on government officials who shape U.S. foreign policy on Israel/Palestine. This group shares many positions about Israel with AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), a powerful pro-Israel Washington lobby group. Israeli leaders welcome and encourage the financial and political support that comes from evangelical Christians. The Prime Ministers of Israel and other government officials frequently meet with delegations of evangelical Christians. In the Winter of 2008, Prime Minister Ohlmert met with a group of 1,000 evangelicals led by John Hagee.

Some Christian writers who view the Israeli/Palestinian situation from the perspective of social justice and international law have been very critical of their evangelical Christian brothers and sisters. Robert O. Smith, a pastor and executive with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has written two papers that are critical of Christian Zionism. The first paper entitled "Toward a Lutheran Response to Christian Zionism" was presented to the ELCA Conference of Bishops in the Spring of 2008. This paper can be read, downloaded and printed here. Rev. Smith also published an article in The Lutheran in June of 2009. The June issue also contained other material related to the Israeli/Palestinian situation and can be accessed through the following link: www.thelutheran.org/article/article_buy.cfm?article_id=8162. An article by Rammy M. Jaija based on a graduate thesis written toward a Master's degree at Harvard can be read here where a PDF document is available for downloading and printing.

Many Christians in the United States are not aware that there is an indigenous population of Palestinian Christians. However, over the past couple of decades there has been a dramatic reduction of Christians in the Holy Land because they have emigrated to other countries. The percent and number of Christians in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem have declined precipitous over the past six decades. Some evangelical Christians believe that Christians have left because of persecution by Muslims. However, most Palestinian church leaders refute such explanations. Watch a 4.5 minute video of Bishop Munib Younan as he discusses the exodus of Palestinian Christians from their homeland: www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwX5EKUQNHk.


According to a 2001 survey, .5% (1,558,068 estimated number in 2004) of the total U.S. population identified themselves as Muslim. There are many African Americans in the Chicago area who identify themselves as Muslim.The Muslim numbers are even more controversial than the Jewish numbers. Some Muslims believe that the American Muslim population is about six million, about the same as the Jewish population. Given that well over 90% of Palestinians are Muslim, it is not surprising that most Muslims are deeply disturbed by how the Palestinians are treated by the Israeli government.

Americans are quick to infer that all Muslims lean toward extremist views. In public opinion polls, many Americans lack appreciation and respect for the Muslim religion. They are quick to assume that muslim extremists did it even when there is no evidence in that direction. Many Americans are wary of the Muslim community because they feel that Muslims intentionally set themselves apart from and distance themselves from American culture. For example, the fact that some Muslim women cover their hair creates an air of suspicion. Wariness of those who differ in dress, skin color, language, accent or behavior leads some Americans to distrust those who are different.

In spite of these challenges, there are many examples of cooperation, joint ventures and social connections of Muslims, Jews and Christians. Hands of Peace involves people from all three of these religious communities. There are several Muslim organizations in the Chicago area that have developed a broad range of working relationships with Jews and Christians. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid when Chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago was one of the founders of and resource providers to the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy.


According to a 2001 survey, 1.3% (3,995,371 estimated number in 2004) of the total U.S. population identified themselves as Jewish. Some argue that it is larger and have estimated that currently it is about 2% of the American population, making the number about six million. Since the emergence of the State of Israel in 1948, most Jewish Americans have usually supported Israel's concern for security and have been quick to "blame" the Palestinians for the continued trouble in that land. However, in the past decade there has been an accelerating trend for increasing numbers of Jewish Americans to criticize some of the practices and policies of the Israeli government that violate the human and property rights of Palestinians who are not security threats.

In the Chicago area, Rabbi Brent Rosen, stands out as a leader for justice, peace and reconciliation among the rabbinical community. His blog comments are thoughtful. inspiring, substantial and reflect the Jewish beliefs that have led many in that community to be pioneers in the fight for the human rights of disenfranchised people. His blog can be found at the following URL: http://rabbibrant.com/. He frequently blogs about israeli/Palestinian issues.