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Migration trends aming Palestinian Christians and Muslims

by Marc Frings

Conference of KAS-Ramallah and Diyar-Bethlehem

On December 21, 2017, DIYAR and KAS Ramallah presented the study "Palestinian Christians: Emigration, Displacement and Diaspora". The publication builds partly on a survey among Christians and Muslims. As the first of its kind, the survey examines in detail the causes of Christian migration. The conference was broadcasted live on Palestinian television (MAAN TV).

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Dr. Mitri Raheb, president of the Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, discussed during his presentation five waves of migration that compelled Palestinain Christians during the past 100 years to leave their homeland. The Palestinian Authority's 2007 census suggests that there are still around 50.000 Christians remaining in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. While the absolute number of Christians in Israel and Palestine increases, their share in the societies decreases. More recent statistics will follow soon, based on a new Palestinian census that is currently being carried out.

Dr. Varsen Aghabekian presented the results of a study conducted in the Palestinian Territories during the current year. Key findings include:

  • On a scale from 0 (no freedom) to 10 (full freedom), Palestinian Christians classify the level of religious freedom at 7.5; among Muslims the value is 7.9;
  • 50% of Christians and 54% of Muslims are optimistic about the future;
  • 17% of Christians and 11% of Muslims feel insecure;
  • 23% of Christians and 12% of Muslims have a family member who emigrated last year;
  • 72% of Christians who left their homeland did so because of the economic situation, 13% because of the political situation and 9% for social and religious reasons;
  • 28% of Christians and 24% of Muslims are considering to leave their home;
  • For 27% of Christians and 20% of Muslims, the political situation in the Middle East reinforces the desire to leave Palestine. 41% of Christians and 47% of Muslims say that the policies of the Arab regimes contribute to Christians leaving the region;
  • Those who do not want to leave refer to their attachment to the country (41% of Christians, 49% of Muslims) or family ties (34% of Christians, 36% of Muslims);
  • A majority of Christians and Muslims are of the opinion that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a religious conflict.
In her research paper, Dr. Hadeel Fawadleh (Birzeit University) focused on the migration experience of Palestinian Christians in the United States. Dr. Bernard Sabella, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a Christian from Jerusalem, shed light on the network of relationships between the local churches of the Holy Land and Europe. This network, and the normative stance of European organizations in particular, offers many entry points for an intensified dialogue. This dialogue should also address the Palestinian context and the political challenges. Considering the empirical findings, Marc Frings, head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in the Palestinian Territories, noted that Christians in their minority role are inevitably living an incoherent life. This expresses itself both in the migration tendencies and in a retreat from the public sphere.

The study is available at DIYAR.

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Marc Frings


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