A team from the Barnabas Fund, who returned from the Holy Land two weeks ago, found that several Christians have been murdered in the past two months by Palestinian militants who have been terrorising Bethlehem's Christian community. These include two Christian sisters who were murdered last month. Another girl was recently raped.
The findings of the Barnabas Fund team were confirmed today by an Israeli security source quoted in the Jerusalem Post, "The militias are composed of criminals who rob and rape Christian women and operate in mafia style. For them, leadership means power, money, and Christian women. A few weeks ago, a Christian who spoke out against the armed Palestinian militias was shot in the head. A Christian family whose daughter was raped by a gang of militiamen was forced to leave its home and uprooted to Amman."
Many extremists see Christians as collaborators with Israel and the West, and therefore legitimate targets for brutal intimidation. On 3 October Yasser Arafat stepped in and announced the replacement of Bethlehem's governor, regional police commander and PA security chief in response to mounting outrage from the victimised Christian community.
Christians in Bethlehem have faced terrible suffering since the Palestinian uprising began over a year ago. Palestinian gunmen have seized and occupied the homes of families in the majority-Christian suburb of Beit Jala, and used them as bases to fire on the Israeli settlement of Gilo, hoping for a violent response which will destroy Christian sites and attract international condemnation. Not only are they attacked by Palestinian extremists, but several innocent Christian civilians have also lost their lives in Israeli attacks.
Bethlehem's Christians, who depended upon the now defunct tourist industry for a living, have been reduced to a state of desperate poverty. Most are struggling to find enough food to survive and are living with mounting unpaid bills for basic services like electricity or water. In many places these services have already been cut. Every day Christian families are fleeing Bethlehem; many will never return. Christians in the Holy Land have been described as "the smallest minority in a land of minorities". Innocent victims of an ongoing conflict, soon there may be no Christians at all left in Bethlehem, the place of Christ's birth.
The Barnabas Fund is sending emergency food packages to the most needy Christian families in Beit Jala. We are also helping to pay their water and electricity bills. Can you help in this desperate situation?
You can make a donation to support the Christians of Beit Jala through a Barnabas Fund office or via our website donation page. Remember to specify Project 377. Click here to support this: http://www.barnabasfund.org/donateonline.htm