Christians in occupied Palestine are a ‘community under threat’, says new report

A view of Church of All Nations from At-Tur (Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem (Mustafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  October 26, 2021

Christians living in occupied Palestine are a community with a future more vulnerable than it needs to be, challenged by violence, migration and a lack of investment, a new study has revealed. University of Birmingham experts worked with counterparts at the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre (ICoHS) and have published their findings in the report “Defeating Minority Exclusion and Unlocking Potential: Christianity in the Holy Land”.

Researchers discovered that the Christian community in Israel, Jordan and Palestine makes a wide-ranging contribution to building civil society, new start-ups, excellence in education and in health and other humanitarian sectors. However, they also found major concerns that, especially in Israel, an unfair visa system and lack of benefits may undermine recruitment and retention of clergy that the churches need to continue building the communities and life in occupied Palestine.

Experts found that Christians reported mistreatment on religious grounds and feel threatened by abusive behaviour. 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. Anecdotal and informal evidence of increasing poverty suggests its rapid increase.

“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 have been massively underestimated,” said Professor Francis Davis from the University of Birmingham’s Edward Cadbury Centre. “This contribution is disproportionate to the size of Christian communities, yet they are at grave risk from war, inter-religious and ethnic conflict, constraints on international investment and fears of economic and legal constraint provoked by migration. Their future is more vulnerable than it needs to be.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including 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.