Collateral Damage: Palestinian Christians
Many Arabs living in Palestine and in Palestinian refugee camps are Christians. With centuries of history in the region and a peaceful relationship with the Muslim Palestinian community, these Christian make up a unique and vital part of the Christian Church as a whole.
Here are a few things you may not know about Palestinian Christians:
- They have been active in the region since Biblical times and were victimized during the Crusades by both sides, but particularly the “Christian” side because of their Arab ethnic roots.
- There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinian Christians worldwide, and roughly 175,000 still living in the Holy Land.
- Approximately 50%-60% of Palestinian Christians have emigrated to countries outside of their homeland.
- During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, 50-60,000 Palestinian refugees fled their homeland, and their descendants continue to live in refugee camps today in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
- Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, is mostly Palestinian, as are other Biblical cities, including Jericho.
- Palestinian Christians get along well with their Muslim neighbors for many reasons, including the fact that they typically live in very urban areas. Living so close together with other cultures, they have learned to emphasize cooperation and communal sharing.
- After many wars and the increased opportunities to learn and work abroad, emigration has plagued Palestinian Christian communities and caused a drastic decrease in population in and around the Holy Land.
- The majority of Palestinian Christians are Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic, while some are Coptic, Armenian, Protestant, and other denominations.
- As Palestinian Christians are fully Arab, and fully Palestinian, they are subject to the same treatment as Muslim Palestinians, including limited ability to move freely through the country and rationed resources.
- For this and many other reasons, Palestinian Christians generally join other Palestinian peace efforts in supporting the establishment of a two-state system.
Learn more from an article by Bernard Sabella, professor of sociology at Bethlehem University. For more history of Palestinian Christians during the era of the Crusades, see Amin Maalouf’s book The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.