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Struggling Christian Minority In Gaza

Christian-Minority-In-GazaSevere conditions in Gaza are leaving the struggling Christian community open to the temptations of “an extremism which does not differentiate between race and religion,” warns a report from the Young Men’s Christian Association in the Gaza Strip today.

According to the first ever survey of the small embattled population, their number has declined by nearly a fifth in under two decades. More than half are refugees, a third of these have no income and many are suffering chronic illness.

The survey offers the first authoritative insight into the life of Christians in Gaza today, a tiny minority among the 1.76 million Palestinian population. In 1997, the total number of Christians in Gaza was 1,688. In 2007 there were 1,375 and by March 2014, there were 1,313, living in just 390 households. Today there are 1,312 because a 70-year-old woman has been killed in the assault.

89% of Christians in Gaza are Greek Orthodox while 9.3% are Latin and 1.52% belongs to other denominations.

Christian institutions in Gaza include the Latin Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Near East Council of Churches, the Ahli Arab Hospital, the Myrrh Bearers Society and the Orthodox Council of Churches.

The decrease in the number of Christians is mainly related to the prevailing circumstances in the Gaza strip, the report says. Many who stayed said they did so “for religious reasons”, for “national pride” and for family.

Most of the Christians in Gaza are middle-aged adults due to the population’s low birth and death rates and share most of the social characteristics of the general population because they live in similar circumstances, under blockade and coping with the generally poor economic conditions.

One of the repercussions of the Gaza siege is the rising unemployment rate, the report says. There is also an electricity crisis with alternative sources of power increasing risks of damage to property, and even death.

While the Christians of Gaza feel that they suffer from the same problems that affect all citizens of the Gaza Strip, Christians perceive the blockade as having an immense impact on their community in particular. They have been prevented from visiting holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem since 2007, disrupting their ability to truly uphold their religious faith, in contrast to other Christians from around the world who are freely able to visit these sites.

“Gaza’s Christian community also fear the political rifts and changes happening in the Middle East, especially the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ which has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Christians from the region, especially from Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the emergence of extremists with religious antidotes to secular societies and a rejection of ‘others’, is also considered a challenge to Christians’ lifestyle and the lives of their children. It is also worth mentioning that poverty, the siege, and a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza as a result of the deteriorating political situation and internal Palestinian division, threatens Gazan society for both Christians and Muslims alike.” the report says.

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