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Christian population in the Middle East rising: The Church of England Newspaper, July 15, 2011 p 8. July 18, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched an appeal to sustain the Christian communities in the Holy Land.

The Archbishop’s call comes amidst a sharp decline in the Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East over the course of the 20th Century. However, in recent years the Christian population of Israel has grown sharply, with the Pontifical Mission to Palestine reporting the return of Christian emigrants from abroad to the Holy Land.

In his address to the General Synod’s July 2011 Group of Sessions, Dr Rowan Williams said that he “returned from a visit to the Holy Land last year with a very, very strong sense that we had to do more to express our solidarity with the Christian communities there… We know our brothers and sisters there are suffering; and we don’t always ask ourselves often enough what our response needs to be.”

He asked Anglicans to support the financial appeal “with which we might assist projects of community development and work creation, especially among Palestinian Christians.”

A demographic study published in 1998 by the Oxford University Press entitled Christian Communities in the Arab Middle East noted that in 1914, Christians constituted 26.4 per cent of the total population in what is now Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, while by 1995 they represented 9.2 per cent of the population.

However, the decline has not been evenly spread. While Christians have fled from areas controlled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, in Israel their numbers have grown rapidly. The Statistical Abstract of Israel 2008 reports that Israel’s Christian population grew from 120,600 in 1995 to 151,600 in 2007, representing a growth rate of 25 per cent — a rate faster than the growth of the country’s Jewish population.

Dr Williams’ appeal comes ahead of a joint conference with the Archbishop of Westminster scheduled for 18/19 July at Lambeth Palace. “The rate of emigration from Christian populations in the Holy Land has been growing steadily for a long time” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in an introductory video.

“People are leaving, Christians are leaving, and we want to say that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is important to its balance… not just its historical reality, but to its present and future viability” added Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

However, the Pontifical Mission to Palestine, an agency created by Pope Pius XII in April 1949 to coordinate all the Catholic aid activities in favour of the Palestinian refugees and victims after the War of 1948, reports that Christians are now returning.

The mission’s regional director Sami el-Yousef told EWTN News the number of Christians living in the Holy Land had stopped falling, and perhaps even increased slightly.

“In recent years I think we have not witnessed any waves of emigration out of the Holy Land,” Mr el-Yousef said. Some families that emigrated in past years have recently returned, he reported.


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