• PALESTINE \ Jul 31, 2001
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    Anglican leader urges Christians to stay in Mideast
Anglican leader urges Christians to stay in Mideast Palestinian Christians, always a minority, have been gradually leaving the Holy Land. They are now barely 2 percent of the roughly 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, according to Palestinian experts.

The Israel-Palestinian violence has speeded up the exodus. Citing security, Israel has closed off the West Bank and Gaza, banning most Palestinians from entering Israel, idling more than 100,000 workers and depressing the Palestinian economy.

Carey appealed: "To the Christians in this land, we want to urge you, and it's easy for me to say this as an outsider: stay put, make your mark but share your message with the rest of us around the world."

On a four-day pastoral visit to the region, Carey said he was "shocked and disturbed" by what he had seen.

"The situation facing the churches is very serious, it's compounded by problems such as the economic situation in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, added to by the inability to move freely," he told reporters.

"We have to remember that in a polarized situation such as this, you have division, but you also have a sharing of pain, tears and suffering."

Carey met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his visit.

During his stay, Carey visited the traditionally Christian district of Bethlehem, as well as Gaza and Jerusalem. At least 300 people have left Bethlehem in recent months, with most heading to the United States and other countries in the Americas, Palestinians say. The town where Jesus was born is now heavily Muslim.

"We are frightfully concerned with Christians from the Holy Land leaving in despair, and we have to say it is because of frustration, a daily sense of humiliation," Carey, who lives in England, said.

"It's in the best interest of Muslims and Jews to have Christians here who can make their own contribution because none of us want Jerusalem and Bethlehem to become Disneyland sites, we want this to be a place of living worship," Carey said.