Recent research has found that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with some 200 million Christians actively persecuted for their faith. As the preferred targets of radical Islam, this number comprises 10 percent of the Christian population worldwide.In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has become a very cold winter for Christians. Between half and two-thirds of the Christian population in the last 100 years has either emigrated to the West or died as a result of violence stemming from religious intolerance. Currently, there is a real danger that the religion will disappear from the original area where it was established. This is due to the fact that twelve out of the 20 countries defined as lacking freedom of religion are Muslim.Christians in the Palestinian Authority have long been a persecuted minority and in Gaza they have virtually disappeared. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, they are less than 40 percent of the population, their lowest number in 100 years. Mass intermarriage and migration of Christians to safer places caused by threats of "pogroms" are responsible for this. In Bethlehem, the streets of the city are filled with Hamas sponsored "Modesty Patrol" that terrorize Christian residents. As one imam stated, "After Saturday comes Sunday," when they are done with the Jews the Christians will be next.In Israel, the Christian communities are thriving. Christmas trees were erected in religiously mixed cities, such as Haifa and Nazareth, and were celebrated by about 75,000 tourists that came to visit such holy places. Christians in Israel are more successful than their brothers in the Middle East with more liberties and access to higher education. But even here, everything is not always perfect and the Christian population is on a steady decline. In Nazareth, a Koranic verse warns that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” This proclamation is only mere steps away from the Basilica of the Annunciation, a pilgrimage spot for many Christians. The site is believed to be where Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel she would give birth to the son of God. There is freedom of religion in Israel but this is also proof there is freedom to discriminate.In his annual Christmas greeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed issues facing the Christian community as a whole and reiterated Israel's commitment to religious freedom. He said:
Today, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are shrinking, and many of them are endangered. This is, of course, not true in Israel. Here there is a strong and growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country. Israel is proud of its record of religious tolerance and pluralism, and Israel will continue to protect freedom of religion for all. And we will continue to safeguard places of Christian worship throughout our country.But even in Europe the situation for Christians is grim. The continent that shaped modern Christianity and gave birth to important factions of Lutherans and Anglicans is under threat. This year, the municipality of Brussels banned a Christmas tree exhibition in order to offset any issues that could arise that would be offensive to Muslims. But this is only a small drop in a large pond. In the aspect of religious practice, Christians are becoming a minority in their own continent. The majority of Christians in the world are indifferent to the fact that Christians in the Middle East are a persecuted and endangered religion. In most cases they prefer fighting other battles that will eventually drift them even further away from possible salvation. While Britain and Germany condemn Israel for building houses in Jerusalem, its historical and modern capital city, their Christian brothers are harassed in the neighboring town of Bethlehem. These actions appear even more absurd, given the earlier stated fact, that Israel is the only country in the region where Christians can feel free and equal. Western countries, with a Christian population and history, do not understand that Jews and Christians are facing the mutual problem of Islamic extremism. Considering recent publications on the condition of Christian communities around the world, the efforts of the European governments should focus on self-survival and supporting Israel. It is the only country in the Middle East that remains a safe haven for the Christian community.