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As part of an event held on February 12th, 2019 in Berlin, Dr. Mitri Raheb, former pastor of the Christmas Church in Bethlehem and President of Dar al-Kalima University, presented the results of a research carried out in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), on the question of religiously motivated migration.
Marc Frings, country director of KAS in the Palestinian Territories, and Dr. Otmar Oehring, coordinator for the International Dialogue on Religious Affairs, supplemented Dr. Raheb’s presentation with remarks on the domestic situation in Palestine and the situation of Christians in the Near and Middle East, respectively. The event was moderated by Thomas Birringer, head of the Middle East and North Africa Team at the KAS headquarters in Berlin.
Dr. Raheb stressed that the Christian migration has a long tradition and dates back to the Ottoman Empire. The tightened conditions for religious minorities at the end of the 19th century triggered the first wave of migration, which was followed by more due to political, social and economic transformations. These included the first Israeli-Arab war as a result of the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948, the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967, and the prospects of better earning opportunities in the Arabian Gulf.
Today, the percentage of Christians residing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is extremely low; in Israel, the percentage of indigenous Christians stands at 1.3 percent and 1.7 in the Palestinian territories. The political instability and the lack of hope for improvement are aggravating the trend of outward migration. There are also specific factors such as lack of family ties, conflicts within Christian denominations and limited job opportunities.
Moreover, as the tendencies of Islamization [defined as a society’s shift to Islam] are being increasingly observed, Christians wonder how secure they can still be in their homeland, given the Palestinian Authority’s weak rule of law and the precarious position of other Christian minorities in the region.
At the same time, it is important to emphasize the positive contribution that Palestinian Christians make to social cohesion: Christian hospitals today account for a third of all hospitals in the West Bank; 45 percent of all non-governmental organizations are led by Christians; and a quota system allows Christian mayors to head ten municipalities and cities in the occupied territories.
Click the links below for more details about the study: