Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, pictured in Ramallah, West Bank, July 2, 2013. UPI/Debbie Hill | License Photo
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Jesus is a "Palestinian messenger," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas" said in a Christmas message.
A statement from Abbas Monday told of his people's struggle for a homeland and decried Israel's security policies.
Calling Jesus a "Palestinian messenger," Abbas said "as we Palestinians strive for our freedom two millennia later, we do our best to follow his example," the Times of Israel reported.
"This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland," Abbas said -- a reference to Israel's security policies.
"Christians are not a minority here, they are an integral part of the Palestinian people," he said.
"Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Copts, Melkites, Protestants and others are all part of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have and as established in our declaration of independence and draft constitution."
The Christian population in the Middle East is believed to be declining, largely due to emigration and the rise in more rigid forms of Islam, observers say.
Abbas said he was committed to peace talks with Israel that included "the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital."