Emigration Among Christians in Bethlehem

( [email protected] ) Oct 04, 2004 09:20 PM EDT

With the surge of violence from the Muslim intifada in Bethlehem, there has been much debate among the Christians whether or how to accept their Palestinian identity along with their Christian faith. Many have left the area since the violence began and many have immigrated elsewhere, according to the Toronto Star.

"The sad fact is that we are small, and we are getting smaller. We feel forgotten and forsaken," says Bernard Sabella of Bethlehem University. "Yet we do exist. You cannot believe us away. Yes, we have problems, we have a complexity of problems. But the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about religion. And I fear that if the story continues to be told on a religious basis, it will do great damage. When you reduce everything to religion, watch out, because one day it will boomerang. Not just on Palestinians, and not just on Christians and Muslims, but on Israelis and Jews as well."

Many have immigrated to places like South America or the US. "It is a book that has never been written," says Sabella. "Unlike most Muslims, so many Christian Palestinians could afford to leave this situation of almost continuous conflict to search for a tolerable life.” Many have left since the violence started among their Muslim neighbors.

"Somehow, Chile and other parts of Latin and South America became our new promised land. It is a remarkable success story. And their prosperity drew others in their wake." Some feel that with the emigration among Christians from Bethlehem, the historical city is becoming a shadow of what it use to be.