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April 14, 2005

Christian Exodus Reconsidered

Media reports about Bethlehem’s Christian diminishing population frequently omit the major reason Christians are leaving Bethlehem--official and unofficial Muslim discrimination against Arab Christians due to increasing Islamism in the Palestinian areas, not to mention across the Middle East. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to read the following in Ken Ellingwood’s story in the Los Angeles Times today (“Strife Spurs Slow Exodus of West Bank Christians”):

Christians face serious challenges throughout the Middle East, experts say, including harassment, their relatively low birthrates and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Guy Bechor, a Middle East specialist at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, said the last pope bears some blame for not acting forcefully on behalf of Christian communities in the Arab world.

“The Vatican was perhaps the only element that could have united the Christian interests in the Middle East, but [it] just . . . abandoned its flock,” Bechor wrote recently in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

The article also includes the usual allegations that Israeli measures against Palestinian terrorism are the primary cause of the Christian exodus. For instance, Ellingwood writes:

Residents say the answer to the slow disappearance of Christians in Bethlehem is peace with Israel and an end to the barriers and travel restrictions that Israel says are necessary to keep out suicide bombers.

However, even if Israel were to remove all the barriers and restrictions, Bethlehem Christians would still be subject to land theft by Muslim gangs in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, as well as Muslim violence and discrimination.

Posted by TS at April 14, 2005 05:24 AM