An Arab Christian Community

Almost all (99%+) of the Arabs in Chile – Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians – are Christian.  In toto, there are about 800,000 Arab-Chileans out of a population of 17 million; about 5% of the population.

They are multi-generational. About 80% or more of the Palestinians in Chile have one ancestor who came to Chile before 1930.

The Arabs did not all of a sudden arrive in 1948 fleeing the Nakba, and join to conspire with fleeing Nazis in a plan to regroup and then attack Israel.

Such is the stuff of Hollywood, and modern propaganda; and it is sheer silliness. (Click Here) for an exposition on this silliness.

The Arabs came chiefly from 3 areas: Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. What distinguishes Chile, however, from other South American nations, is the enormity of Palestinian immigration. In other South American countries, the Maronites/Syrian Orthodox would be the chief Arab immigrants and would set the tone. In Chile, the Christian Palestinians would set the tone.

Today, Chile has about 400-500,000 Palestinian Christians which is about three times the number of Palestinian Christians as there are in the Mideast. Syria and Jordan have more Palestinians, but those are Muslims.

In terms of Christian Palestinians, Chile has the largest number in the world.

The Palestinian immigrations came from four Christian (at that time) towns: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Beit Safafa (which Israel annexed into the Eastern Part of Jerusalem). Many came to escape enforced military service in the Ottoman Empire, which at that time was pretty harsh for a Christian.

For the first generation, the Arabs suffered discrimination. They were even mislabelled as Turks, since they came in on Ottoman passports. Unlike Germans and Italians (and other preferred European stocks), Chile was not eager for Arab immigrants. The Chileans had wanted white immigrants, preferably Nordics, even going so far as to subsidize European immigrant colonies. But the incoming despised Arab newcomers were on their own.

Though these Arabs were Christian, this is what they were subjected to:

Source: Wikipedia: Palestinian Community in Chile

Whether they are Mahometans or Buddhists, what one can see and smell from far, is that they are more dirty than the dogs of Constantinople…

Ironic, since many were from the vary same branch of Christianity (Roman Catholic or Orthdox, the older liturgical denominations) that the Chileans were from; and were fleeing Turkish rule.

By the second generation, they had become middle class and accepted. Some became rich enough to inspire awe. Some of the wealthiest people in Chile were Arab.

By 1947, they had enough organized clout to force Chile’s pro-Zionist government to abstain on the UN Partition vote for Palestine.

The initially despised had become the elite.

By 1970, about 70% were marrying outside the community. Their assimilation was complete. Today you would have Spanish-Palestinian, Italian-Palestinian, German-Palestinian, and probably even a few Jewish-Palestinian intermarriages in Chile.

This roughly is the mirror image of Jewish success in America, even down to intermarriage, which is at about 50% in the USA for Jews.

In this, the Arabs of Chile replicated the success of Jews in America, in almost the same time span and era. Like American Jews, initially assimilation was their first goal; but like American Jews today, they are re-discovering their roots: in their case Arabic.


San Jorge (George) Cathedral, Santiago Chile
Though assimilated and intermarried now, they still maintain their roots.
Original Source

Most Arab Chileans no longer speak Arabic, but clearly maintain a very strong connection to their past.

1) Many have intermarried. Some of the people in the video look almost German in ancestry.

2) What is also clear is that they have pride in their Arab roots. Notice the book in the video: The Strength of Roots (2:33), with a Syrian eagle on it. Notice: Monsignor Siluan, an Arabic surname.

3) The majority belong to Orthodox Christianity, rather than the majority Catholicism of Chile. This in itself is an expression of ethnic pride.