Christianity has a long history in the land of Israel, a history of indigenous communities whose fortunes have been linked to the many conquerors — Muslims, Crusaders, Turks and Jews — and the many national communities — Armenian, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Syrian, Russian and French — that have made their way to Palestine. Palestine was once a Christian country and there has been a continuous Christian presence there since the time of Jesus. From the middle of the fourth century to the Arab conquest in the middle of the seventh century, the Roman province of Palestine was transformed into a Christian country with Jerusalem its glittering metropolis. Under Byzantine rule, Palestine not only attained spiritual pre-eminence in the Christian world, but also reached a level of material prosperity and population density that was not surpassed until modem times. Arab and other Middle Eastern Christians today are a living link between ourselves and the earliest Christian churches.
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