|World Watch List Rank||World Watch List Score|
|President Mahmoud Abbas||5 million | 46,600 Christians|
|WWL Rank in 2018||Persecution Level|
Christians have lived in the Palestinian Territories (referring to the separate regions of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) since the first century AD. They now only make up 1% of the population. Traditional churches are hesitant to accept new Christians who have left Islam to follow Jesus, as it could upset the Islamic community. The struggling economy and the fear of Islamic extremism has caused many Christians to leave the Palestinian Territories.
In Gaza, unemployment (especially for young people) is high. There’s only electricity a couple of hours a day. According to some Palestinian Christians, if the current situation continues, there will be no more Christians in one generation’s time.
'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.
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors is supporting the church in Israel and the Palestinian Territories through: