Plight and Flight of Palestinian Christians

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Palestinians can be Christians too

by Dr Hanan Chehata

Bethlehem Bible College sign_1379The “Palestinian problem” is usually perceived to be a “Muslim” problem; a conflict between the Jews and the Muslims and, for the most part, it is. However, it is easy to forget that amidst all of the politics and international wrangling there is another small but extremely important group who also have a deep rooted and valid claim to what is undoubtedly the most disputed “Holy Land” in the world. It may only constitute an extremely small minority of the entire population (estimates range from anywhere between 2.3%-1.5%)1 but the Palestinian Arab Christians living in Palestine/Israel also have a legitimate historical and spiritual claim to the land. After all, Palestine was the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the land in which he spent his short 33 year life and even shorter term of ministry and, according to Christianity, the place of his crucifixion and resurrection as well. Ever since the time of Jesus there has been a permanent presence of Christianity in the Holy Land. Not only is it a spiritual hub to which Christians from all over the world flock for pilgrimage and prayer, particularly during Christmas and Easter, but it has also been a home to countless Christians of numerous denominations for almost two thousand years.

However, in the last few decades there has been a perceptible exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. As the number of Jewish settler-colonists from all over the world has increased, the number of Christians living in the region has declined sharply. Whereas a few decades ago the number of Christians in Bethlehem, the city in which Jesus was born, was estimated to be around 70%, now they constitute well below a third of the total population.

There are many complicated reasons for this exodus, including the rise of Zionist extremism and economic hardships caused by discriminatory Israeli policies.

Read more…

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