Drew Christiansen, S.J., former editor of the Jesuit-founded magazine, America and Palestinian writer Ra’fat Aldajani co-authored a blog entry at the National Catholic Reporter‘s website that shamefully misleads readers about the population of Christians in the Holy Land.
In their Sept. 16, 2014 piece on the appearance of Sen. Ted Cruz at the In Defense of Christians’ gala dinner that sparked a huge controversy last week, the authors state the following:
The insensitivity of the event’s planners to Israel’s role in Christians’ disappearance from the Holy Land was underscored by the late inclusion of Rateb Rabie, president of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation — of which one of the authors of this blog post, Fr. Drew Christiansen, is a co-founder — to speak on behalf of Palestinian Christians. Rabie noted how the percentage of Christians in contemporary Israel has declined from 20 percent of the population at the time of Israel’s founding to 1.5 percent today. (Emphasis added.)
In the paragraph quoted above, the authors talk about “the disappearance of Christians in the Holy Land” and to buttress this point, they then invoke a decline in the percentage of Christians as part of Israel’s total population.
The paragraph quoted above is simply deceptive and unworthy of a blog entry co-authored by journalists, one of whom is a Jesuit priest and a professor of ethics.
Here’s why: The population of Christians in Israel has not “disappeared” as Father Christiansen and Aldajani report.
Instead, the population of Christians has increased substantially
If Father Christiansen and Mr. Aldajani had given the actual numbers of Christians in that country (instead of trafficking in percentages), their readers would know this.
Yes, the percentage of Christians as a total of the overall population has declined since Israel’s founding, but only because the population of Jews and Muslims has increased much faster than the Christian population has increased.
In the years after Israel’s founding, there were approximately 34,000 Christians living in the Jewish state, the vast majority of them Arabs. Today there are between 120,000 and 130,000 Arab Christians living in Israel. This is a substantial increase of well over 200 percent, the likes of which one simply does not see anywhere else in the Middle East.
As stated in this CAMERA article, “According to the Statistical Abstract of Israel for 2013, there were 1.1 million Jews and 113,800 Muslims living in Israel in 1950. At the end of 2012, there wereapproximately 5.9 million Jews and 1.4 million Muslims living in the country. (The population of the two groups increased by 430 and 1074 percent respectively.)”
The article continues:
These numbers go a long ways toward explaining why a fast growing Christian population is declining as a proportion of Israel’s total population. As fast growing as it is, the two other groups in the country, are growing at an even faster rate. This does not mean, however, that Christians are in decline in the Jewish state.
How can Christiansen and Aldajani honestly talk to their readers about the “disappearance” of Christians from the Holy Land when the numbers demonstrate otherwise?