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Christians of Gaza revive the tradition of Negus while the Muslim World sleeps

As of the night of 31st July, 2014, the time I wrote this piece, at least 1,432 Palestinians including 327 children and 166 women have been killed in Gaza during the current conflict. These are unarmed civilians, most of whom, targeted by Israel at their own homes, places of worship, schools, hospitals , ambulances and even UN run shelters.  Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has startled about high numbers of civilian casualties. She called for “real accountability considering the increasing evidence of war crimes.” Pillay specifically pointed to the six United Nations schools in Gaza that have been struck, resulting in civilians’ deaths. The U.N. has alleged Israel for these strikes and civilian casualties.

It has been 22 days of intense firings and bombings which has massacred so many innocent women and children – the youngest being a 9 month old baby. The Israeli forces have targeted the schools, water pipelines, waste-water treatment plant and refugee camps. Israel has also targeted power lines in Gaza city, Rafah and northern Gaza, leading to a power loss. The technicians in charge of essential infrastructures such as water and electricity are too frightened to repair damages caused by the bombs. This obviously has consequences on hospitals which heavily depend on electricity.

Unlike Israel, who holds 11th rank in the world’s Military might with an annual defence budget of $15,000,000,000 and with iron domes over its famed iron walls – Gaza is a minuscule, over populated third world STRIP with every entrance and exit blocked with nowhere to run for shelter. Gaza is blocked on three sides by Israel. On the fourth side sits the Mediterranean, controlled and managed by Israel, completing a perfect siege. Egypt has a 12km-wide stretch of border with Gaza but it blocks it more sedulously than even the Israelis. Egypt is constantly refusing to open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow injured Palestinians to seek treatment at Egyptian hospitals. The Egyptian Army has also destroyed 1,370 tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip. The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, were used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Gaza strip. Egyptian protesters have staged numerous rallies in the past, calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to ease restrictions on Gaza. But Egypt has also prevented aid convoys from reaching the residents of the impoverished Palestinian territory.

After the military ejection of the government of President Mohamed Morsi last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states — including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the political Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.  Egyptian government has directly or indirectly alleged Hamas instead of Israel for the Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, U.N. schools have been hit by Israeli shells. Aaron Miller, a U.S. based analyst and negotiator for various U.S. governments has rightly opined that the ‘silence of the Arab World is deafening’ and that “he has never seen a situation like it, where so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummelling of Hamas.”

Iran, a declared antagonist of Israel, is so busy dealing with Saudi Arabia and its various proxies and the new menace of Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Hezbollah is disbursed in Syria, while Hamas is an effectively isolated entity. The ISIS is busy in desecration of the holy Muslim shrines and killing the Muslim brethren. The current disintegration of what once was known as the Arab bloc provides Israel the timid support of many Muslim nations as it goes after Hamas. Arab League, whose history has been dominated by the Palestinian issue, is absent from the scene. With a fractured GCC, the OIC is completely insignificant.

The U.S. and the European nations are busy in imposing new sanctions against Russia over the shooting down of flight MH 17 and the genocide of Muslims in  Gaza have slipped to second place in attention. There is neither an audible voice nor a sign of international intervention in this humanitarian crisis.

Gaza is practically now the world’s largest prison with its 1.8 million residents.In a display of harmony Christians of Gaza City has offered a shelter to displaced Muslims in the Saint Porphyrius Church. The church has sheltered more than 500 displaced war refugees and   offered them facilities to commemorate the holy month of Ramadan peacefully. As reported by Agence France Presse (AFP), the Muslims are not only provided shelter in the Church but also allowed to pray. Christian community is reported to be very cordial and greet Muslims in an Islamic way. The Christians are said to be deliberately avoiding eating in front of Muslims during the fasting days of Ramadan. These rescued Muslims of Gaza had also offered their Eid-ul-Fitr prayer at the Church.

This unprecedented generosity of Christians of Gaza reminds us the kindness of Negus (Najashi) Christian king of Abyssinia. In 614-615 CE, Aṣḥama ibn Abjar or al-Najashi of Aksum who was a Christian Emperor gave refuge to several Muslims in the Christian Kingdom of Aksum (Abyssinia). The companions of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), sought refuge from Quraish persecution in the Kingdom of Aksum (Abyssinia). After the emigration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Abu Jahal and Abu Sufyan, the two warlords of pagans of Makkah, sent a delegation to Najashi asking him to expel the Muslims. The delegation brought many precious gifts for the king and his courtiers. The just king responded: “No, by God, I won’t surrender Muslims to anyone until I myself call them and question them about what they have been accused of”.It was a very critical moment for a nascent religion. Hazrat Jafar ibn Abi Talib (R.A), the elder brother of Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib(A.S), who after embracing Islam escaped the prosecution of Makkans was standing in the court of Christian King Najashi to defend Islam.On that occasion Hazrat Jafar (RA) delivered a remarkable speech before the Christian king and his courtiers. His speech contained good criticism of the existing society on the one hand, and on the other, it was a comprehensive account of Islam, and its values.When Jafar (RA) concluded his speech, the king asked him to read some verses which were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). He recited a few verses from the 19th chapter of the Qur’an, Sura Maryam (Mary).Najashi listened to this speech attentivelyrefused to extradite the Muslims, returned the presents and dismissed this embassy. Muslims then lived in the Christian kingdom with peace and returned to Madinah when the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) conquered Khyber. They thanked King Najashi for his good protection and hospitality provided to them. When King Najashi died the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) offered his funeral prayer in absentia, in Madina.

The kindness of the Christians of Gaza is the reflection of their true obedience to the Bible which states in Leviticus 19:16-18  “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’   This neighbour appears to be the Muslims of Gaza as Prophet Jesus (P.B.U.H) has hinted on this ‘neighbour’ in Luke 10:25-37, ‘And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.”

The tight lipped kings, dictators and utilitarian democratic leaders of the Muslim World, however,  have completely ignored what Quran narrates in Al-Imran, 103, ‘And adhere to the Bond of Allah, together, and do not be divided’ and what Allah SWT revealed in Al-Hujjurat, 49:10, ‘The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers’.  The fragmented Muslim World should remind itself the great message of Prophet Muhmmad (P.B.U.H.)as cited in both Bukhari and Muslimthat “The Believers, in their mutual love, mercy and compassion, are like one body: if one organ complained, the rest of the body develops a fever.”

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