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Christian Arab girl in traditional clothing

Palestinian Christians (Arabic: مسيحيون فلسطينيون‎‎) are Christian citizens of the State of Palestine and number some 38,000. In the wider definition of Palestinian Christians, including the Palestinian refugees, diaspora and people with full or partial Palestinian Christian ancestry this can be applied to an estimated 500,000 people worldwide as of the year 2000. Palestinian Christians belong to one of a number of Christian denominations, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Catholicism (Eastern and Western rites), Anglicanism, Lutheranism, other branches of Protestantism and others. They number 6–7% of the 12 million Palestinians. 70% live outside Palestine and Israel.

After the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 630s, the local Christians were Arabized as well even though large numbers were ethnically Arabs of the Ghassanid clans. Bethlehem’s two largest Arab Christian clans trace their ancestry to the Ghassanids, including al-Farahiyyah and an-Najajreh. The former have descended from the Ghassanids who migrated from Yemen and an-Najajreh descend from Najran [Saudi Arabia].

The percentage of Christians in the town has been steadily declining over the years, primarily due to emigration. 

In addition to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, many Palestinian Christians emigrated to countries in Latin America, as well as to Australia, the United States and Canada.

Today, Chile houses the largest Palestinian Christian community in the world outside of the Levant. As many as 350,000 Palestinian Christians reside in Chile, most of whom came from Beit Jala, Bethlehem, and Beit Sahur. Also, El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela have significant Palestinian Christian communities, some of whom immigrated almost a century ago during the time of Ottoman Palestine. 

Location: Bethlehem, Palestine

Photographer: Gervais Courtellemont

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