Christian Emigration Seen as Weakening the Holy Land

Church Leaders of Israel, Palestine and Jordan Convene

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AMMAN, Jordan, MARCH 13, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- A meeting of Church leaders of Israel, Palestine and Jordan raised the alarm about Christian emigration and it serious consequences for the region.

«The emigration of Christians from the Holy Land weakens the millenary Christian presence and transforms the political conflict of Arabs, Christians and Muslims on one hand, and the Israeli occupation on the other, into a religious conflict,» the leaders said.

The meeting took place Monday in Amman, the Jordanian capital, under the patronage of King Abdallah II.

According to statistics provided to the congress by expert Berbard Sabella, the Christian population in Jerusalem is 7,000, down from 30,000 in 1948. Under a normal rate of growth, it should have grown to 100,000.

The same is true of the Palestinian Territories. In just five years, Christians have declined by 29%: from 38,000 in 1997 to 27,000 today.

The congress noted the solidarity of Christians with their Muslim fellow citizens, and decided to send Muslim-Christian delegations to visit Western educational and ecclesial institutions.

In addition, the congress decided to create a dialogue commission between Arabs and the West in order to neutralize the «Western propaganda machine that attempts to discredit Arabs and Muslims,» especially since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

«We strongly condemn the oppressive campaign of the Western media against Islam, erroneously described as a faith predisposed to terrorism and inimical to the West,» said Saleh Hamarneh, a former professor of history at the University of Amman.

In Jordan, Christians represent only 3% of the population, but their participation in the country´s political and economic life is significant.

Since 1928, the electoral law reserves nine of the 80 seats in Parliament for the Christian minority. Of the 26 Ministers of the present government, three are Christians and hold the key ministerial posts of foreign affairs, finance and water resources.

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