I reprint extracts from an email received from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Read it and weep.
"Ironically, soon there may be no Christians left in Bethlehem. Oppression of Christians by radical Muslims, which rose sharply after Israel turned over control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority in 1995, has led to a Christian exodus from the area. In 1995, Christians made up 62 percent of the population in the city of Jesus' birth. Today, that figure stands at approximately 15 percent.
Given the stories we've heard of threats and violence against Christians, it's easy to understand why. One pastor, Naim Khoury, who heads the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, tells of being shot three times, and having his church bombed on 14 separate occasions.
The oppression of Christians by hard-line Islamists is common not only in Bethlehem, but throughout Palestinian-controlled areas. In Gaza, where 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims, it is sometimes deadly. Last fall, Rami Khader Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore, was murdered by Islamic radicals. When Hamas terrorists seized power over the area in June 2007, numerous attacks against Christians were reported, including the ransacking of a convent. Clearly, in Gaza Hamas has created an atmosphere deeply hostile to Christians.
In Israel, on the other hand, the right to worship freely is protected for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike, and perpetrators of religiously-motivated attacks are punished with the full force of the law. No wonder, then, that even many Palestinians living in areas of Israel that could be turned over to the Palestinian Authority in peace negotiations have voiced strong opposition to any such deal...
Please take a moment to pray that Christians in hostile Arab and Muslim countries will be released from their bonds of oppression. And, to all my Christian friends everywhere, please accept my sincere wish that this Christmas is one of joy and peace. I feel greatly blessed by your continued support for Israel and the Jewish people, and your prayers for the peace of Jerusalem."