Christianity is disappearing from home of its birth, author says


Christianity is in danger of disappearing from the place of its birth, Bethlehem, according to a warning from author Raymond Ibrahim, a Gatestone Institute distinguished senior fellow and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

He writes at the institute’s web page that a new report has confirmed “a marked uptick in religiously motivated attacks by Palestinian Muslims on Christians in Bethlehem.”

“Just over two weeks ago, a Muslim man was accused of harassing young Christian women at a Forefathers Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour near the city of Bethlehem. Soon after, the church was attacked by a large mob of Palestinian men who hurled rocks at the building while congregants cowered inside. Several of the congregants were injured in the attack,” he reported.

The Palestinian Authority is responsible for security there, and did “nothing.”

He explained in October, gunmen shot at the Christian-owned Bethlehem Hotel, but there were no arrests.

“Perhaps the greatest shock to the community came in April when the Palestinian evangelical pastor, Johnny Shahwan, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces on charges of ‘promoting normalization’ with Israel,” he explained.

Then there have been attacks by masked men carrying iron bars on Christian brothers Daoud and Daher Nassar, another example that the “persecution of Palestinian Christians” is a longstanding problem.

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Explained Rabbi Pesach Wolicki of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, “Unfortunately, these recent attacks against churches are not new. Christians have been under attack in Bethlehem for many, many years. There have been bombings. There are near-constant physical attacks against Christians. They’re going on a regular basis, ever since the Palestinian Authority took over.”

Kamal Tarazi, a Christian, used to live in the Gaza strip, but then Hamas took over.

“They started persecuting us, ruining our churches and forcing Christians to convert to Islam,” he said.

Ibrahim noted that in 1947, Christians were 85% of the population of Bethlehem. By 2016, that was down to 16%.

Justus Reid Weiner, a lawyer, noted in Ibrahim’s report, “In a society where Arab Christians have no voice and no protection it is no surprise that they are leaving. … The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs.”

Ibrahim explained, “Open Doors, a human rights organization that follows the persecution of Christians, reports that Palestinian Christians suffer from a ‘high’ level of persecution.”

That organization has reported, “Those who convert to Christianity from Islam, however, face the worst Christian persecution and it is difficult for them to safely participate in existing churches. In the West Bank they are threatened and put under great pressure, in Gaza their situation is so dangerous that they live their Christian faith in utmost secrecy…. The influence of radical Islamic ideology is rising, and historical churches have to be diplomatic in their approach towards Muslims.”

Ibrahim said, “The bread and butter of the PA and its supporters, particularly in the media, is to portray Palestinians in general as victims of unjust aggression and discrimination from Israel. This narrative would be jeopardized if the international community learned that it is Palestinian Muslims who are persecuting their fellow Palestinian Christians—solely on account of religion. It might be hard to muster sympathy for a professedly oppressed people when one realizes that they themselves are doing the oppressing of the minorities in their midst — and for no other reason than religious bigotry.”

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