I started writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1998. At the time of the Second Intifada, 2000-2005, it became increasingly evident that Palestinian Christians felt vulnerable. They had been an instrumental part of the Palestinian national movement, but the character of Palestinian nationalism shifted in a more Islamic direction during those years. The Christians told me that they felt like strangers in their own land, and began to leave by the thousands. I was told by Christians in Bethlehem that if the emigration kept going at this pace, no Christians would be left in a couple of decades, besides a few monks and custodians maintaining the holy sites. Being only two percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, this assessment wasn’t an exaggeration.
Around 2006 even more catastrophic news made its way from Iraq where it was stated that up to two thirds of the Christian population—among the oldest in the world—had left the country. Several churches were bombed, priests were killed, Christians were kidnapped by the thousands, and whole areas of the major cities Baghdad and Mosul were being evicted.
Then in 2011, following the Arab Spring and the ouster of then-president Hosni Mubarak, the same stories were heard in Egypt. Christians here, too, were under attack and with even less protection from the security forces than they’d received under Mubarak. I decided at that point to travel to the area to investigate the story myself.