Munther Isaac

Rev. Munther Isaac leads a Christmas carol and prayer event in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on December 14, 2023.

(Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In Christmas Sermon, Palestinian Theologian Condemns Enablers of Gaza Genocide

"Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world," said Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac. "If you fail to call this a genocide, it is on you. It is a sin and a darkness you willingly embrace."

In an unsparing Christmas sermon delivered from the occupied West Bank over the weekend, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac decried the complicity of the church and Western governments in Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza, a nearly three-month military campaign that he called an "annihilation" and a "genocide."

"Leaders of the so-called 'free' lined up one after the other to give the green light for this genocide against a captive population. They gave the cover," Isaac, a Palestinian Christian theologian, said during a service titled, "Christ in the Rubble: A Liturgy of Lament."

"Not only did they make sure to pay the bill in advance, they veiled the truth and context, providing political cover. And, yet another layer has been added: the theological cover with the Western Church stepping into the spotlight," Isaac added. "Here in Palestine, the Bible is weaponized against us. Our very own sacred text... The theology of the empire becomes a powerful tool to mask oppression under the cloak of divine sanction."

With most of the territory's population struggling to survive under the intertwined threats of starvation, disease, and near-constant bombing, Isaac said that "Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world."

"If you are not appalled by what is happening, if you are not shaken to your core, there is something wrong with your humanity," Isaac said from Bethlehem, which Israeli forces attacked on Monday. "And if we, as Christians, are not outraged by this genocide, by the weaponizing of the Bible to justify it, there is something wrong with our Christian witness, and we are compromising the credibility of our Gospel message. If you fail to call this a genocide, it is on you. It is a sin and a darkness you willingly embrace."

Isaac delivered his sermon a day before Israel launched one of its deadliest barrages of airstrikes of the 11-week war, killing dozens of people in central Gaza.

Displaced Gazans described fearing for their lives as Israeli warplanes and tanks bombarded homes, a refugee camp, and main roads, disrupting efforts to transport airstrike victims to the territory's overwhelmed and collapsing hospitals.

Aided by the United States, Israel has dropped hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs on the densely populated Gaza Strip since October 7, killing more than 20,000 people and destroying huge swaths of the enclave's infrastructure. A New York Timesinvestigation found that Israel dropped many of the bombs on southern Gaza, where the Israeli military had ordered people to move as it assailed the north in the early stages of the war.

Isaac said Saturday that he was in the U.S.—Israel's leading arms supplier—last month just after Thanksgiving.

"I was amazed by the amount of Christmas decorations and lights, and all the commercial goods," he recounted. "And I couldn't help but think: They send us bombs while celebrating Christmas in their land. They sing about the prince of peace in their land while playing the drum of war in our land."

"Christmas in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is this manger. This is our message to the world today," Isaac continued. "It is a gospel message, it is a true and authentic Christmas message, about the God who did not stay silent, but said his word, and his word was Jesus. Born among the occupied and marginalized. He is in solidarity with us in our pain and brokenness. This message is our message to the world today, and it is simply this: This genocide must stop now."

Reutersreported Monday that instead of their usual Christmas celebrations, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem held a candle-lit vigil and prayed for peace in Gaza.

"There was no large tree, the usual centerpiece of Bethlehem's Christmas observances," Reuters noted. "Nativity figurines in churches were placed amid rubble and barbed wire in solidarity with the people of Gaza."

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