Some of the world’s Christians are aware that in Israel, a small percentage of the population includes Jewish believers in Jesus. Similarly, it varies how aware the broader church is of the presence of Palestinian Christians in Palestine and Israel.Palestinian Christians trace their history to the start of the church 2,000 years ago. Ancestors of some have been on the land ever since, while others migrated to the land in succeeding centuries. Both groups count themselves as members of the continuous Christian presence.
You are Christians because of us. ...And now, we need your support." — Pastor Ashraf Tannous
Palestinian Christians make up around 1.5 per cent of the population in Palestine and Israel. The largest group is in churches of the Eastern Orthodox family, with the Greek Orthodox having the most adherents. The Catholic family is next, followed by groups such as Armenians, Anglicans and Lutherans. Small numbers of other traditions are represented as well.
Most Palestinian Christians strongly identify as Palestinians, while seeking right relationships with all people. Christians and Muslims together suffer from Israeli checkpoints, travel restrictions, confiscation of homes and land, and other forms of state violence. They express a strong call for both justice and nonviolence that lead to real peace.1
Palestinian Christians are keenly aware of their precarious situation in the land where Jesus lived and died. For them it matters greatly whether fellow Christians believe that all people, including Palestinians, should be counted as citizens in the land.“You are Christians because of us. We were Christians long before you were,” is the message Ashraf Tannous, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, has for the worldwide church. “And now, we need your support. Not in money, but in prayer, in moral support and in telling our story.”2
1 See the Kairos Palestine document issued in December 2009: “A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”
2 Pastor Ashraf Tannous shared this message with members of a March 2016 MCC learning tour to Palestine.