Mideast: Christians in Territories halved since 2000

From 2% to 1% of population, now 47,000

12 April, 12:45

    CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY IN BETHLEHEM [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20061224 ] CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY IN BETHLEHEM [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20061224 ]

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 12 - The Christian community in the Palestinian Territories has been shrinking in the past 13 years from 2% to 1% of the overall population, according to a report by a Christian Palestinian professor, Hanna Issa, published by the Fides news agency on Friday. In Jerusalem alone there are 5,000 Christians today, down from the 27,000 registered in 1948, according to data by Issa, an international law professor and secretary general for the Islamic-Christian Commission in support of Jerusalem and the holy sites. The researcher has often defined the shrinking Christian population in the Middle East a 'social disaster'.

    In the synopsis summing up his most recent findings, published by Fides, Issa said Christians living in the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are 47,000 while 110,000 are living in the regions where the new Jewish state was created in 1948.

    The drastic diminution of Christians in the Territories is reportedly due to emigration and, mostly, to significantly lower birth rates compared to the Muslim Palestinian community.

    However, noted Father Manuel Musallam, a former parish priest in Gaza who is now in charge of relations with Christian communities for Fatah's department of external relations, the political, economic and social factors behind this trend need to be confronted. Many leave to find work, to study or raise a family, he said: 'People leave Gaza and other areas because of the lack of the minimum requirements for a dignified existence.

    In Jerusalem, many have decided to sell their homes after receiving great offers' enabling them to move their family to a western country or enabling them to leave better. The Palestinian Authority, noted Father Musallam, should implement measures to encourage Christians to stay, such as helping students pursue their studies, easier work access and helping people find housing. (ANSAmed)

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