In the latter half of the 20th century, middle-class Christian families leaving the Holy Land to seek a secure future abroad became a real exodus.
Today, the number of Christians in different areas of the Holy Land varies from 2% to 4% of the local population and these are very largely craft workers, small tradesmen and those working in the tourist industry that has developed alongside pilgrimages. Such very small minorities can only survive if their skills are high enough to earn them the appreciation and esteem of the society in which they live; and this can only be achieved thanks to better standards of education and training.
Since the end of the 19th century, the Order has financed the construction of 40 patriarchal schools in Israel, Palestine and Jordan and it now has a commitment to fund their running costs. Today around 19,000 pupils and students attend these schools, from nursery classes through elementary, middle and upper school, as well as in a number of technical schools. On average, the student breakdown is 60% Christian (Catholics, Orthodox, etc.) and 40% Muslim.
The Order’s involvement with education helps to deal with a very important problem in the region: how to get people of different races and religions used to living in peace and mutual respect. If these values are encouraged from an early age they may be implanted in children’s minds, otherwise there is no hope of doing it at a later stage, for in adolescence young people are easy prey to extremist ideologies.
The running costs of the Patriarchate and its 68 parishes, the salaries of the 900 teachers and other staff in the educational establishments, the costs of the patriarchal seminary and the orphanages and clinics, as well as those of the Patriarchate’s new enterprises and other ongoing projects (including the construction of housing for young Christian families) are enormous and rise continually, putting a heavy burden on our Order. Such costs can only be sustained thanks to the generosity of the active Members of the Order.