Are Christians facing persecution in the cradle of Christianity?

Despite being the world’s largest religion, with over 2.4 billion adherents, the Christian population of the Middle East, including the Palestinian territories, is facing more difficulties than ever before.Ten years ago, in 2009, the Christian population in Gaza was estimated to be around 3,000 people, according to Reuters. At the new turn of the decade, the number has shrunk by of two-thirds, to an estimated 1,000 worshipers, most of them Greek Orthodox.

This year, at least three major incidents have affected Christians living in the West Bank, according to a report by the conservative think tank Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies: a mob targeted the Christian village of Jifna near Ramallah, causing significant property damage and terrifying its residents, while a Maronite Church in Bethlehem and an Anglican Church near Ramallah were broken into and vandalized.

According to a report commissioned by then-British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt earlier this year, Christians used to represent about 20% of the population in the Middle East and Africa about a century ago, and today they are about 4%, and the numbers of Palestinian Christians have especially dwindled.

“We’ve all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians,” Hunt said, while commenting the findings of the report in May, as quoted by The Guardian.

The Christian organization Open Doors, whose mission is to raise awareness and support persecuted Christians, included the Palestinian territories in their World Watch List, an annual report on the global persecution of Christians ranking the top 50 countries where they are persecuted for their faith.

In the 2019 edition, the Palestinian territories ranked in 49th position.

The report mentioned “Islamic oppression” as the main source of persecution, adding that “Islamic extremist militants are also present in the West Bank, causing Christians to fear being attacked,” and that the persecution is especially brutal for those who convert to Christianity.

The report also noted that “Christians are caught in the crossfire of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Their ethnicity means many restrictions from the Israeli side while their faith makes them a minority in the Muslim-majority Palestinian community.”

“Israeli restrictions and the fear of growing Islamic extremism has caused many Christians to emigrate,” it further stated.

“Though the Christians in the PA avoid saying so publicly, many of them fear – with good reason – that Muslim aggression against them will only escalate. Such fears are all the stronger in light of the thunderous silence of the Western (and Israeli) media in the face of the Christian minority’s ongoing disappearance from the PA and Islamic lands in general,” Edy Cohen, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies wrote.

“The ongoing international neglect of the plight of the Christians under PA rule can only lead to the vanishing of Christianity from the place where it emerged,” he added.

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