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ICC Note: The birthplace of Christianity is the Middle East. In modern day Palestine, some people still pray in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. But this is also the place where Christianity is dying out altogether. An Italian photography team has taken up the project of putting faces to the remaining Christians of the Middle East. The final portfolio, “Rifugio,” shows the faithful and their plight to preserve their beliefs.

06-16-2015 Palestine (The Guardian): Father Iyad Twai is the Roman Catholic parish priest of the village of Beit Sahour, a mile or so away from Beit Lechem – or Bethlehem, as it is better known – in the Palestinian West Bank. Last month, we met for a coffee and a smoke at Bethlehem University and chatted about our respective parishes. It’s a golden rule that, when two clergy get together to talk, they start comparing numbers. He has about 350 families in his parish – about 1,200 people – as well as involvement from the Orthodox and Arab Maronite communities. And his was the village where the shepherds of the gospel of Luke first proclaimed the good news of Jesus’s birth. This is where Christianity began. Some of his parishioners are descendants of those first shepherds, he said. I raised a sceptical eyebrow. Nonetheless, in the game of ecclesiastical top trumps, he had blown me away on all counts.

But, for all of this, Father Iyad is fighting an uphill battle. His community is shrinking, with many younger Palestinian Christians leaving Beit Sahour to find jobs elsewhere in the world. The Israeli occupation has left them with little prospects in their home town. Soon, he says, there won’t be any Christians left. People will come here on air-conditioned coaches to look at buildings like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but what he calls the “living stones”, ie the local Christian community itself (a reference to 1 Peter, chapter 2), are ignored, as if they don’t exist

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