I Converted 2,000 Years Ago

You exist?”

They still make you guys?

When did you convert?”

Palestinian Christians before myself have not failed to mention the conversations they experience once they reveal their identities. We often snicker at that element of surprise and shock we receive in response. And I’ve had my fair share of laughs. A basketball buddy once compared me to a candy as to best describe his confusion.  “You know, you’re like a starburst. Like solid on the outside but juicy on the inside. You’re Palestinian, but you’re Christian. Such a contradiction.” And that supplied me with icebreakers for quite some time. But then there came a point where I stopped laughing. And it became an unfortunate day in my world to come to the final realization that common knowledge seemed to be a rare commodity nowadays.

I made it a habit to never be offended when people were shocked of my existence. It required a great deal of patience to walk them through the missing portion of their deductive reasoning. It was the same process over and over again:

Who was Jesus?

Where was he born?

… And where am I from?

Once you heard that “aha!” you know you were good to go. But the fact I had to explain myself to so many people, especially “devout Christians” (as they claim to be) that I in fact do exist, and that there are indeed more of “me” out there, made me question present-day education. I think it’s great that you can solve x for your math homework, but what education are you really getting if it’s shocking to meet a Christian from the land where Christianity all began? I question how ignorance continues to persist in an age of global communication unprecedented by digital innovation. Technology has indefinitely minimized the corners of the earth and people have become more intertwined with one another. Except, Palestinian Christians aren’t making the frontlines of CNN. In fact, Arab Christians aren’t making the headlines of media outlets in the U.S. period. Unless they’re graciously receiving a herd of goats as donated by some Protestant Church in America and transferred by the Good Samaritan Israel, then the average American’s exposure to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world remains limited.

However, I would only become offended when attempts were made to differentiate me from the very people I came from. “But you’re not like them right?”  I was often separated into some distinct category they found acceptable as a means of perceiving me as one of their own. Anyone else who didn’t fit the definition of a white Christian was considered to be “other”, and “other” was simply not American. Such as my aforesaid buddy, ‘Christian’ seemed to be antithetical to ‘Palestinian’. And being a Palestinian Christian required a ‘but’, where the two appeared inherently contradictory. You cannot have both together unless you were some extraordinary exception to your people, as you more than likely just recently converted to Christianity. It’s as if people’s shoulders would tensely rise up when I mentioned being Palestinian, and then slug back down in relief after revealing my religion. I would go from being some barbaric Islamabad savage to a white-skinned Sunday-school child of God. And in a war between the civilized man and the savage, you must always pick the former.

While Americans have so graciously extended this privilege upon me, to be accepted as one of their own, I regret to inform you that I will be declining your orientalist invitation. It is only but a concurrence that my complexion is light, but my Christian roots dates back to the early days of the bible. And I will not have somebody appropriate the very blood in my veins by slugging off my existence as some remarkable “coincidence”. Had my complexion not been similar to that of the “regular American”, I doubt my Christianity would even be enough. I take pride in the fact that I descend from the biblical tribes. I praise the land I come from of which prominent historical figures have hailed from. To depreciate every person who comes from my land because they do not share your faith or have white skin essentially is to disregard your very own Savior. Jesus was not some blonde-haired, blue-eyed man who missioned the Grand Canyon. He was not born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He wasn’t baptized in the Hudson River, and He did not speak English. Jesus Christ was a Middle Eastern man with a dark complexion, similar to that of which most today would ignorantly dismiss as “the other”. If being the ‘civilized man’ in this war means imposing hypocritical, racist barriers between peoples, then keep your civilization far away from me. And if my Christianity in anyway exempts me from being associated with those vicious ‘savages’, then consider me one of them. I am a Palestinian Christian. I am older than both concepts of your Protestantism and ‘civilized war’. And I will not be relinquishing that anytime soon.

 Amira

Amira is a  Palestinian-American born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She attends the University of Washington, where she is as pre-law student with a major in political science and a minor in law, societies, and justice. Originally from Bethlehem, however, due to her withheld Right of Return, Amira is not allowed residency in my homeland.

 

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on allthingslevantine and commented:
    A piece I recently submitted to Beyond Compromise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: