Brother David Carroll, F.S.C., Assistant to the Secretary General of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, addressed the issue of Christians in the Holy Land and their relationships with the area’s Jewish and Muslim communities on 27 and 28 November 2001, in San Antonio, Texas.
Brother David, a member of the Muslim-Roman Catholic National Dialogue of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke before a combined audience of some 400 persons at St. Pius X and St. Matthew parishes in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
He illustrated his talk with graphics showing the area from its partition by the United Nations in 1947 to present-day boundaries. A map of the Old City of Jerusalem was useful in locating the major places of pilgrimage.Brother David began with the historical background of the area, contrasting the Jewish and Christian traditions. This was followed by a discussion of the politics of the region and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Far from bringing peace to the region, conflicts have broken out repeatedly among Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians.
While listeners were attentive to his analysis, Brother David said that the thoughts of his audience were not far from the events taking place in Afghanistan. Many of the questions posed to him focused on Islam, he said. He pointed out that just as Christianity has many factions and sects ranging from conservative to fundamentalist, so it is with Islam. Mainstream Muslims share the same values as many people in the Western world, he reminded them: good jobs, homes, advancement for their children through education.The extremists should not be confused with the moderates, Brother David asserted.
Much of the violence that emanates from this part of the world, he said, is due to a long history of violence in a nomadic society.
Making the violence relevant to his audience, Brother David mentioned the recent damage to Bethlehem University, the residence of the Christian Brothers, Holy Family Maternity Hospital and The Creche, a children’s home. Another direct result of the unsettled conditions in the area is the flight of many Christians, most of whom are seeking to settle either in Europe or North America.
Brother David found the enthusiasm of his audiences encouraging. “It is refreshing to see people spending their time and energy in learning about a part of the world that is foreign to them,” he said. “They were eager to learn, asked probing questions. It’s what people have to do in a changing world.”