Forgotten-Christians in Palestine
“Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15 percent of the population five or six decades ago, the Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70 percent of the population.”
By Ed Vitagliano
08/29/2009 Palestine (OneNewsNow)-The Middle East has existed in a state of crisis for more than 60 years, and most people who have stayed abreast of that turmoil understand it to be rooted in the conflict between Israel and Arab Muslims.
But there is another group of people whose circumstances, while increasingly precarious, are almost invisible to the world: Palestinian Christians.
David Parsons, media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, said that the “Palestinian Christian community is dwindling fast, from about 10 percent of the population in 1948 to barely 1.5 percent today.”
There have been disagreements between the principle parties that have prevented that Palestinian state from becoming a reality. Armed conflicts between Palestinian Muslims and the state of Israel have frequently turned nasty. That has been part of the reason for the exodus of Palestinian Christians.
Muslim journalist Khaled Abu Toameh dismisses any attempts to blame Israel above all factors. “True, Israel ’s security measures in the West Bank have made living conditions more difficult for all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “But to say that these measures are the main and sole reason for the Christian exodus from the Holy Land is misleading.”
Many place the majority of blame on Islamic radicals. “Christians don’t feel free anymore. [Muslim extremists] are trying to impose their way of life,” an Arab Christian told WorldNetDaily (WND). He added: “At times we don’t feel safe for us, our families, and our Christian friends.”
Two years ago, according to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Rami Ayyad, director of a shop owned by the Palestinian Bible Society, was kidnapped and murdered in Gaza City by jihadists, Muslim fundamentalists who have declared “holy war” on infidels.
“Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they could no longer afford to pay ‘protection’ money to local Muslim gangs,” Toameh said.
What Weiner describes seems like bedlam. “[L]awlessness and anarchy have swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years,” he said. “Gangs of Muslim thugs and thieves have created what a former Palestinian cabinet minister described as ‘total chaos.’ [T]hese militants frequently abuse and intimidate Christians.”
The persecution is taking its toll in some locales. “Today, Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15 percent of the population,” said Toameh. “Five or six decades ago, the Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70 percent of the population.”