The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has made an impassioned plea for Christians to strengthen their presence in the Holy Land, warning that the Christian community here is at risk of becoming a vanishing minority.

Carey, the leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion, said he was "shocked and disturbed" at the violence and economic hardships in the region that are driving many Christians to flee the area.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Carey called on the Christian minority—most of whom are Palestinians—to remain in the Holy Land and for followers of the faith abroad to make pilgrimages in large numbers.

"We want to urge you [local Christians] to stay put," he said. "I [also] want to tell Christians around the world to come back to Jerusalem. Come back in your tourist buses and flood Jerusalem."

He said that local church leaders feared that unless Christians made a concerted effort their holy shrines might become nothing more than museums or tourist curiosities.

"It is in the best interests 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," he said. "We want this to be a place of living worship."

Carey was speaking at a news conference at the end of a four-day visit to the Holy Land.

He called on Palestinian Christians, who account for two percent of the total population of the Holy Land, to "make your mark but share your message with the rest of us around the world."

Carey said this was easy for him to say as "an outsider," adding that he empathized with the plight of the Palestinians, who have faced long closures of their areas and other restrictions on their movements because of Israel's stringent security measures.

He said ...

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