Christian Presence at Risk in Holy Land

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Christian procession in Jerusalem

Thirteen Christian patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a statement on December 13 expressing their concern that radical groups are trying to force Christians out of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Their Statement on the Current Threat to the Christian Presence in the Holy Land begins, “Throughout the Holy Land, Christians have become the targets of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups. Since 2012 there have been countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community our of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land.”

The patriarchs and other church leaders recognized the Israeli governments stated commitment to protect Christians, but insist the governments of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan must do more. “It is … a matter of grave concern,” they said, “when this national commitment is betrayed by the failure of local politicians, officials and law enforcement agencies to curb the activities of radical groups who regularly intimidate local Christians, assault priests and clergy, and desecrate Holy Sites and church properties.”

The patriarchs and church leaders recommend the establishment of a Christian cultural and heritage zone in the Christian Quarter, much like the one already in the Jewish Quarter of the city. The Christian leaders say the zone would, “safeguard the integrity of the Christian Quarter in Old City Jerusalem and … ensure that its unique character and heritage are preserved for the sake of well-being of the local community, our national life, and the wider world.”

Christians in the Holy Land used to comprise 20% of the population. Today they represent only 2%. Even still, the authors of the Statement say, Christians contribute to the culture and economy of the Holy Land in a way that far exceeds their numbers.

Churches for Middle East Peace is an ecumenical group made up of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches and organizations that work to support Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. You can access their website here and offer what support you can.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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