.- The mayor of Bethlehem said that the âbitternessâ of the Israeli occupation is driving more and more Christians away from the birthplace of Christ, AFP reports.
"Each year I try not to be gloomy in my Christmas message but the harsh facts on the ground and the clouds of instability and suffering that continue to overshadow Bethlehem strongly push me to this direction," said Hanner Nasser, Bethlehemâs Christian mayor.
During a press conference in which he delivered his Christmas message he said that "living under occupation is certainly the most painful experience man can face and the biggest offence to human rights and dignity.â
Nasser said thatâwe each day have to swallow the bitterness of the Israeli practices: killing of our people, demolition of houses, arrest and humiliationâ¦the closure and oppressive siege have crippled Bethlehem and deteriorated the living conditions of its people to an unprecedented degree."
Pointing out that 2,400 out of 40,000 Chritians in Bethlehem have left the West Bank town and its environs since the beginnig of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000, he said that "Christians all over the world should know this reality. If we don't have a quick breakthrough in the peace process more are going to leave."
"Imagine the city of Bethlehem with no Christians," said the mayor.