“We have been concerned about the declining number of Christians in the Palestinian Territories,” explained Robert Nicholson.
To learn more about this problem, Nicholson’s group, The Philos Project, conducted an unprecedented survey of this endangered Christian population.
And what he and his team found out broke their hearts…
“Today, Christians compose only 1% of the Palestinian population throughout the Palestinian Territories,” The Philos Project wrote as a preface to its brand-new survey data.
The Philos Project recently focused on protecting and empowering Palestinian believers—one of the purposes of this new survey.
As one of the most vulnerable Christian populations around the world, Palestinian believers face persecution and discrimination on a daily basis.
And the number of Palestinian Christians is dwindling each day as believers leave their homes for the relative safety of other countries.
“The survey was conducted upon the request of Palestinian Authority (PA) officials who are alarmed by the extent of Palestinian Christian emigration,” added Dr. Khalil Shikaki, who managed the study.
“The PA seeks to find ways of reducing this outflow: to find the best means of reducing this emigration.”
The Philos Project reported that, even in traditionally Christian areas of Palestine such as Bethlehem, Christian populations continue to drop.
The survey revealed that Palestinian Christians have many reasons for leaving their homeland, but the heartbreaking truth is that, in many cases, they simply don’t feel supported by the global Church.
“Many Palestinian Christians do not feel the church has adequately addressed their issues and most [survey] respondents distrust their own religious leaders,” reported the survey.
In fact, “58% [of Palestinian Christians] say they have either ‘not very much trust’ or ‘no trust at all’ in Christian leaders.”
“The fact that most of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land think the church should do more is, for me, a call to action,” Nicholson reflected.
“The fact that a high percentage of Palestinian Christians…feel that churches aren’t meeting their needs breaks my heart,” added Khalil Sayegh, a fellow with The Philos Project and a Palestinian believer himself.
This lack of trust in Christian leaders in Palestine and around the globe contributes to many difficult situations for Palestine’s few believers.
Palestinian Christians face poor economic conditions and employment discrimination, religious extremism from many of their Muslim neighbors, and a general feeling of insecurity and lack of safety.
“Christians may be having a more difficult time [than Muslims] finding employment…[facing] religious discrimination against them when they seek jobs in the private sector,” reported the survey results.
“Any Palestinian Christian knows deep in his heart that there is a certain social discrimination against Christians within the Palestinian society,” said Sayegh, reflecting on his own experience as a believer within Palestine.
“However, due to the sensitivity of the subject and the need to maintain social peace, Christians often remain silent about it.”
So how is the global church to respond to the urgent, deeply felt needs of our Palestinian brothers and sisters?
The overwhelming answer is that the church should step up and defend worldwide religious freedom, providing practical solutions that create safe societies and stable jobs for believers.
“This may be the survey’s biggest takeaway: Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza, like those living in other parts of the region, are torn between what they want and what is actually possible,” said Nicholson.
“No doubt the frustration that flows from this dissonance feeds the growing exodus of Christians from places like Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq in addition to the Palestinian Territories.”
In other words, Palestine’s Christians want to stay in their homeland and continue to spread the Gospel. But to combat their daily fears and struggles, they need direct support from the global church.
“Anyone who wants to help these shrinking communities [of believers] needs to address root causes and propose solutions that go beyond mere humanitarian aid.”
These “solutions” may include job creation by local and global church communities, outspoken support for laws protecting religious expression, and advocacy specifically on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Palestine.
We can no longer be satisfied with providing “mere humanitarian aid,” The Philos Project urged: it’s time to stand up and fight for other believers.
“The Philos Project looks forward to partnering with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in all sectors to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in the cradle of their faith,” Nicholson concluded firmly.
Please pray for our Palestinian brothers and sisters. May God empower them as they share His Gospel in their homeland, and may He show us how to work for their protection!
Learn how to join The Philos Project movement for interfaith peace today.