01/18/2006, 00.00
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Abdallah of Jordan: Don't empty Jerusalem of its Christian population

 Amman (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – There is the great danger that "Jerusalem will be emptied of its Christian and Arab residents because of growing emigration", said King Abdallah II of Jordan in a meeting yesterday afternoon with 20 European and American bishops. The bishops form part of the Episcopal Conference Coordination in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, and they are also concerned about the plight of Christians in Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

The king invited western churches to "encourage Arab Christian residents to remain in the Holy City because they are custodians of its authenticity and identity." The king also called for greater "coordination and collaboration between Churches in Jordan and the Holy Land and western Churches, especially the Catholic Church", to confront the "challenges of peace in the Holy Land".

Jerusalem, added the Hashemite monarch, is "the city of hope and peace" for believers of all three monotheistic religions.

According to official statistics, the Christian population of Jerusalem stands at 14,700 people. Franciscan sources in the Holy Land said that between 1840 and 2002, Jerusalem's Christian population dropped from 25% to 2%. At the same time, the Jewish population grew from 4,000 to 400,000 thanks to immigration, while the Muslim population rose from 4,600 to 143,000, the outcome of a high birth rate. Insecurity about the future, the new Intifada and demographic and political pressures of the Israeli state are among the causes of migration.

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