Christians returning to Palestine; prime minister laments church bombings
January 12, 2011
Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, told a group of European and North American bishops that “we are very disturbed at the recent terrorism against Christians in both Iraq and Egypt, and we must speak out on this issue.” The prime minister said that he shares Pope Benedict’s “concern about intolerance in the Middle East.”
“Not all countries of the Middle East are the same, and we have a long tradition of coexistence in this land,” he said. “Freedom of religion is essential and that requires tolerance and respect.”
Prime Minister Fayyad reported that in 2009, more Christians entered the region than departed from it. Citing “considerable improvements to civic society, governance and infrastructure,” he said that “we are doing as much as we can to encourage people to stay and for those who have left to return.”
“What is the Holy Land without Christians? How can we have Bethlehem without Christians? It would not be Bethlehem but something else, and this is a high priority.”
“People are more hopeful today than they were a couple of years ago,” Fayyad told Vatican Radio after the meeting. “We have gone through a lot of adversity, it’s not an easy thing to be under oppressive occupation for more than 43 years. Life here is not perfect in Palestine but living conditions are better and people are more hopeful and that’s the most important thing.”
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