palestnian
territories

Believers from a Muslim background (BMBs) experience high levels of persecution especially in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.

Palestinian Territories

World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
23 64/100
Leader Population
President Mahmoud Abbas 4,928,000 (70,800 Christians)
Main Religion Government
Islam Interim administration
Source of Persecution Persecution Level
Islamic extremism Very High Persecution

BMBs particularly face harassment from their communities and families to reconvert. Under Gaza's militant Islamist party, Hamas, the rights of Christians are neither upheld nor protected, and it is almost impossible to build and register Protestant churches. Under the West Bank's secular Fatah party, non-BMB Christians face more subtle forms of discrimination, but increasing Islamic radicalisation throughout society is making Christian conversion more dangerous.

PERSECUTION IN PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

'We'll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross' was found written on the walls after vandals attacked church in Gaza in February 2014. Though small, the attack had a major impact on the tiny Christian community there. Combined with regional developments - including attacks on Christians and churches in Syria and Egypt - it has led to a reduced level of safety for believers who notice a difference in the way fellow citizens view them, pointing to a lack of respect. They wonder who will defend them and where to run to. Due to the conflict in the region, and the stagnating peace process, such tensions often go unnoticed.

The situation is a little better for Christians in the West Bank where the ruling Fatah party is formally based on secular principles and Christians enjoy several rights. In Gaza, however, though Christians are largely tolerated by Islamist Hamas, their rights are neither upheld nor protected. The Palestinian Basic Law states that the official religion is Islam and Sharia is the main source of legislation.

In addition to the discrimination, fear is also growing amidst a general context of political unrest and the increasing influence of radical Islam in the Middle East. Christians face threats from radical Islamic vigilant groups, as shown by the attack on the church in Gaza. At more mosques, the volume of loudspeakers is higher and more women are wearing the veil, including Christian women who feel the pressure to cover up.In Gaza, some members of the historical churches are vulnerable for conversion to Islam because, in the first instance, they don't see the difference between Christianity and Islam. They are Christian by birth and not necessarily out of choice. They convert because they feel trapped, cannot stand the threats, or are lured with offers of housing, wives, jobs or diplomas. Once converted, many of them soon regret it. The ties with their Christian identity turn out to be stronger than they thought. However, in Islam it is not easy for a convert to return to their former religion.

Of all types of Christians, BMBs face the most severe persecution. In the West Bank, they are threatened and pressured; in Gaza, their situation is so dangerous that they live their faith in utmost secrecy. Children whose parents have converted are likely to be harassed or discriminated against, and if a Christian married to a Muslim is divorced, he or she would be excluded from having custody of the children. BMBs cannot officially gather as a congregation nor can they openly join existing churches. Nevertheless, the number of such believers is growing slowly.

HOW WE HELP

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors is supporting the church in Israel and the Palestinian Territories through:

  • Distributing Bibles and Christian literature
  • Training (biblical training, reconciliation, trauma debriefing and counselling)
  • Socio-economic development (such as relief work)
  • Advocacy and presence ministry (providing legal funds, safe houses).

PRAYER POINTS FOR PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

  • For the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza who suffer because of their faith and ethnicity. Ask God to enable them to be peacemakers and share the love of Christ
  • Praise God for Open Doors partners and churches providing training in biblical studies, reconciliation and trauma counselling
  • That the unity of the body of Christ will be celebrated and become a visible witness for all.
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TAKE ACTION

  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
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  • Advocate for persecuted Christians by signing the Hope for Middle East Petition.
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  • Consider donating your resources to Open Doors.
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