Christians In Occupied Palestine: ‘A Community Under Threat’

Christians living in occupied Palestine are a community with a vulnerable future challenged by violence, migration, and a lack of investment, a study from the University of Birmingham has shown. In Defeating Minority Exclusion and Unlocking Potential: Christianity in the Holy Land researchers have brought forward major concerns that undermine the recruitment and retention of clergy in occupied Palestine, where Israel imposes an unfair visa system and lack of benefits to the clergy.

Experts have found that Christians continue to report mistreatment on religious grounds and feel threatened by abusive behavior. According to the Middle East Monitor, an absence of adequate data tracking and addressing Christian poverty is also undermining the community in Israel and the government’s claims to be improving in this area.

“Christianity in the Holy Land is globally and diplomatically significant because of its position at the heart of the region, but its economic, social and civic value for the people of the Holy Land has been massively underestimated,” voices Professor Francis Davis from the University of Birmingham’s Edward Cadbury Centre.

They are at grave risk of war, inter-religious and ethnic conflict, suffer big constraints on international investment, and have fears of economic and legal constraints caused by migration.

As for recommendations, the report includes further research into the cultural, economic, and civic contribution of Palestinian Christians; a new program of education, briefing, and information to increase understanding and engagement with the Christian communities; meetings of religious, government, and civil society organizations to explore how to reduce attacks on Christian communities; ongoing international parliamentary scrutiny; and exploring with the Israeli government how it can regularly publish departmental performance data relating to Christian communities.

Most recently, 10 globally recognized Christian organizations in Palestine have condemned Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian groups, including leading human rights groups, as “terrorist organizations”.

The six Palestinian organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

They have been designated terrorist organizations on the grounds that they “are controlled by the senior leadership of the PFLP and employ many members of the group in jobs in both management and on the ground – including activists who were involved in terrorism”, has announced Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz.

In a joint statement, the Christian organizations have said that “this designation targets all Palestinian civil society organizations” and claimed the move was aimed at “silencing” civil society groups advocating for Palestinians. This statement was signed by Sabeel, Kairos Palestine, Diyar Consortium, East Jerusalem YMCA, The Joint Advocacy Initiative, Arab Orthodox Union Club Jerusalem, Arab Educational Institute, YWCA of Palestine, Bethlehem Bible College, and Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center.

Christians living in Palestine need more support than ever. It is a community that makes a wide-ranging contribution to building civil society, creating dozens of new start-ups, and excel in education and in health formation, but see its future as black as it could be due to the lack of protection and data recollection to follow up with increasing attacks towards them.

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