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Gaza: important research underway to study Christian community

Providing an accurate picture of life for Palestinian Christians in Gaza is the aim of an unprecedented survey being carried out this month ...

Providing an accurate picture of life for Palestinian Christians in Gaza is the aim of an unprecedented survey being carried out this month.

"The Palestinian Christian community in Gaza is tiny but determined," explains Jeremy Moodey, CEO of Christian development charity Embrace the Middle East, who are co-funding the study. "Media reports can sometimes be distorted and unhelpful. But for the first time in more than 50 years we are finally researching the size and make-up of the community, how it has changed since the Oslo accords of 1993 and the special challenges facing Christians in Gaza."
 
There has never been a comprehensive socio-economic study of Gaza’s Christian community, although there was an unofficial census by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1993. The last official census to look at religion in Gaza was by Israel, just after the Six Day war in 1967. This showed a Christian population in Gaza of 2,305, or about 0.6% of the total.
 
In the 1945 census done by the British ahead of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Christians numbered around 1,300, or 0.9%. Today the population is believed to number around 1,500, less than 0.1%. Most Palestinian Christians in Gaza are from the Greek Orthodox or Latin (Roman Catholic) traditions, although there is also a small Baptist community. 
 
Embrace is working on the project with the Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem and the Gaza YMCA. Volunteers have started collecting data for the survey, the results of which should be available in May. 
 
"Ten groups of volunteers (all university graduates) are visiting the homes of all Gaza’s Christians," says Moodey. "They have been trained in communication skills and field visit work, as well as how to use the questionnaires properly. There is also a trained data coordinator and a researcher, who will review and check the accuracy of the filled-out forms before collating and analysing."
 
This data will be used to help Embrace, and their respective implementing partners in Gaza, including the Pontifical Mission and the Middle East Council of Churches, to work together in planning effective responses.
 
"Gaza’s Christian community is under great pressure, both from the continued blockade of the territory by Egypt and Israel, which threatens a humanitarian catastrophe, and by the Islamist government in Gaza. We want to support this community in their presence and their witness, and this survey will be a vital building block in our own endeavours and those of our partners."

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