Stay or go? Palestinian Christians face a difficult choice

By February 26, 2024

Palestine (MNN) — Nearly five months after Hamas attacked Israel, peace and security are still out of reach. And the small number of Christians across Israel and Palestine have fallen.

In Gaza, several churches were destroyed, and approximately 20 percent of Christians left. Those who remain have been trapped by the conflict, living as refugees. But even the Christian community outside of Gaza has been affected.

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College.

Reverend Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College, says the devastating ripple effects have extended to the West Bank.

“It’s hard. People are frustrated,” Rev. Sara says. “Every day you hear people are leaving the country.”

West Bank tourism has dropped drastically. Military checkpoints, road closures, and violence are the new norm. Businesses struggle to remain open, and simply commuting between towns is an ordeal.

Rev. Sara says, “In Bethlehem, it did impact us because like I said, over 60% of the income depends on tourism here in the city.”

Those who can afford it, including local Christians, are choosing to go elsewhere. But Bethlehem Bible College remains as a ministry to the Middle East and support for the local Church.

“We want the Christians to remain here. Just imagine this country without the Christians,” Rev. Sara sasys.

A New Opportunity

Bethlehem Bible College is giving some Christians a new reason to stay. The college has partnered with other institutions in the Middle East and North Africa to offer a doctorate program in theology. It is the first of its kind in the region’s history.

Previously, Christian scholars from the MENA region had to study abroad if they wanted to pursue a PhD. Other doctorate programs also tend to represent a Western worldview. Bethlehem Bible College, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, and the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo have formed the Middle East Graduate Theological Consortium to provide students with another option unique to their region.

“These scholars will study a PhD in their context,” Rev. Sara says.

“They don’t have to leave somewhere to get it. And it will focus on what we call a contextual theology, understanding the Bible in our context.”

The doctorate program will also welcome students to apply from anywhere in the world and study remotely. Learn more about the new program.

Bethlehem Bible College continues to offer several online courses and degrees, such as peace studies and Arabic, for anyone interested in ministry and the Middle East. Find out more here.

Pray for God to bring true peace and sustain His people in Palestine. Ask Him to provide for the ongoing ministry of Bethlehem Bible College and consider supporting a student.

Rev. Sara says, “We depend on donations and people who want to support the work of the Kingdom through Bethlehem Bible College.”


Photos courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College.

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