By Rev. Steven D. Martin, President
During the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, the time Christians almost universally call "Holy Week," a delegation made of seven persons, three Christians and four Muslims, traveled to Jordan and the Palestinian Territories on a journey of solidarity visits and fact-finding.
We had many preconceived notions about what we would find. Anyone who has visited this region will tell you that one rarely finds the expected.
Christianity is disappearing from the Middle East, for sure. In the years since the creation of the state of Israel, Christians who once comprised 30% or more of the region are now only 1.7%, Why? Some media sources would tell you they have left because of pressure from Islamist groups To be sure, the Christian population of Hebron is nearly zero, in part because of the desire of groups to make it a completely Muslim area. But this is not the case in other parts of historic Palestine. Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Birzeit have been strongly Christian towns. It surprises many visitors to find church services full of worshipers, singing and praying in Arabic, greeting each other with "Alhamdullilah," "Isha'allah," and others typically associated with Muslim faith not because Christianity has been compromised, but because these are simply Arabic words that express religious sentiment. The heritage of Christianity is everywhere, fully integrated into Palestinian culture. But the people have, for the most part, entered the Palestinian Diaspora.