Christian leaders tell youth to 'tear up' Israel army forms
Published Friday 25/04/2014 (updated) 26/04/2014 22:25
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna and former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah on Friday urged Christian youth not to enlist in the Israeli military and to ignore Israeli "propaganda" encouraging them to do so.
The statement came after a meeting between the two religious figures on Friday, which followed reports on Tuesday that Israeli authorities would distribute military enlistment papers to Palestinian Christian youth who are citizens of Israel in order to encourage them to voluntarily sign up for military service.
The leaders called upon Christian youth who have received the enrollment papers to "tear them up and throw them away and not to engage with them in any way."
The leaders also stressed the "firm national position of the Christians in refusing to join a military that exercises violence against the rights of the Palestinian people."
The forms to be sent to Christian youth resemble the mandatory enlistment forms distributed to Jewish and Druze Israelis, and the army hopes that by sending these papers more youth will voluntarily sign up to enlist.
Although Christian Palestinian citizens of Israel are currently exempt from military service along with Muslims, a government decision made in February to re-classify Christians as a separate ethnicity distinct from "Arab" raised fears that mandatory enrollment would follow, as it did for Palestinians of the Druze religion in the 1950s.
About 10 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel, also called "Arab-Israelis," are Christians, while the majority of the remaining are Muslims and Druze.
Although the majority of Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the state of Israel, some managed to remain and their descendants today make up around 20 percent of Israel's population.