35,000 Christian Palestinians 'Losing Hope,' Awaiting One-State or Two-State Solution

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine, in this January 21, 2015 video.
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine, in this January 21, 2015 video. | (Screenshot: YouTube/Rick Steves' Europe)

Christian Palestinians are "losing hope" amid the desperation and oppression they face, asking for human rights while world leaders continue debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"People are losing hope that there will be any solutions. They feel that things are going back instead of going forward. The whole political instability, the economic pressure that ... the Palestinians are facing ... with no solutions," Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College, told Mission Network News.

There has been a stall in recent years when it comes to talks over a two-state or one-state solution to the conflict, which has made the lives of 35,000 or so Christian Palestinians near Bethlehem difficult.

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"A lot of the Christians are still desperate to find a place where they, their kids are growing in peace and the ... atmosphere where in Palestine it's not that way. Still, the checkpoints are all over the place. The wall is being just erected, continued to kind of like suffocate almost the life of our Palestinians, especially in Bethlehem where the concentration of Christians is the highest in all of the West Bank," Sara said.

The economic sanctions on the West Bank have been imposed against hardline Palestinian factions and terrorist groups, but many regular people are suffering. Christians have faced various obstructions, such as not being able to visit family living in Jerusalem and other places inside Israel.

"Palestinians don't have the right to move around the country. They have no access to borders that they could fly out from except for Jordan. There's a lot of, I would say, [a] lack of freedom in many ways, and lack of opportunities because of that. The economy's being controlled still by Israel," Sara continued.

The missionary college director said that Palestinian Christians feel forgotten, as their story is often ignored and overlooked amid news of bombings and fighting in the region.

"I think it's worthwhile for Christians first to dig deeper into understanding the realities on the ground and specifically how Christians are living. If we are concerned about the Church, we have to be concerned about the Christians in the Holy Land because the Holy Land is bleeding from its Christians," Sara advised the global Church.

"The Christians are leaving. You know that includes committed believers, includes ministers, includes people who are ... not leaving by their own choice," he added.

Rival politicians have clashed over the fate of Christians in Palestine. In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized how the Palestinian Authority treats Christians, suggesting it's responsible for the Christian population decreasing to 20 percent in Bethlehem since 1995.

Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman hit back against Netanyahu, however, accusing the premier of "using Christians as a tool to whitewash the occupation," referring to what Palestinian leaders say is Israel's occupation of the land.

Sara has spoken out on the plight of Palestinian Christians on a number of occasions, and in May warned that they are struggling to survive in the land where Jesus Christ was born and sacrificed Himself for the world.

"We all need Christ. But in Palestine, it's the land of Christ, and that's an issue and a problem, and I will say a challenge and a potential at the same time. The challenge is that this is the land of Christ where He was born, where He gave His life as a sacrifice on behalf of all the [world]," the Bethlehem Bible College's president said at the time.

"It's the birthplace and the resurrection place, and the Holy Spirit place. And the Church, it started there. Yet, nowadays Christians don't make up even 1.5 percent of the total population."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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