One of the least reported cultural stories in the Middle East today involves the plight of Arab ChristiansÑsome eight million people living mostly in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. These are the remnants of indigenous Holy Land communities dating back 2,000 years who were among the first Christians in history. Their culture is ancient, distinctive, and colorful, shaped by their remarkable ability to survive the upheavals of Middle Eastern history. Yet Arab Christians are now in danger of vanishing from the region altogether, driven out by a rising tide of religious and political extremism. Attacks on Christians are up dramatically from a decade ago, prompting a huge wave of out-migration. Besides uprooting families and communities, this trend is also having an adverse impact on the Arab world: Christians tend to be the best educated and most modernized citizens of their home landsÑthe progressive voices in the political arena as well as successful merchants and traders. In short, the people Arab society can least afford to lose. This story looks at the Arab Christians in the Levant; Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

Don Belt on assignment by the Wall in Bethlehem.