Saturday, May 21, 2005
Bethlehem Christians Worry About Islamic Takeover in Jesus' Birthplace.
Thirty years ago no one in the city had ever heard of Hamas; now more than 30 percent of the city is Hamas and it's growing every year. They have the money. They help people open shops and build apartments, he said.
"They have the means to draw people close to them," he said, and once the people begin to attach themselves to Hamas, then they fall under its influence.
"The Christians are sleeping. I blame the West for that. They are encouraging these groups in an indirect way," he said.
About 150,000 Palestinians live in the greatere Bethlehem area, which includes the cities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala as well as a number of outlying villages. Only about 25,000 of those Palestinians are Christian - less than 20 percent of the residents of the municipality.
In 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day war, more than 60 percent of the area was Christian.
More than 5,000 Christians have left the city during the last few years, primarily for economic reasons, while the so-called Christian countries in the West gave all their money to the P.A., which was like giving it to the mafia, said the Bethlehem Christian.
"I couldn't find one Christian organization in the world [to help the Christians of Bethlehem]," he added.