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A Dwindling Witness

No church in the world can claim more ancient roots than in Israel-Palestine, where there has been a continual Christian presence since the time of Christ. But in the last 60 years, the number of Palestinian Christians living in the area has dropped from as much as 40 percent of the population to only 2 or 3 percent (estimates vary), while most Palestinian Christians have emigrated elsewhere. The reasons are debated—various groups blame Israel’s policies or pressures from the Muslim majority. In 1992 George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, told the New York Times that he feared in 15 years Jerusalem and Bethlehem would become “a kind of Walt Disney Christian theme park”—a tourist attraction without a real Christian presence. His prediction is in danger of coming true. But those local Christians who still remain in places like Bethlehem are holding on to their homeland and heritage fiercely.

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