Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have repeatedly raised concerns about attacks and harassment by extremist elements in Israeli society, and the grave threats posed to the Christian presence in the city and in the region.
In a 27 July statement, Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem expressed concern over “lamentable events” that unfolded upon the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif. “We bear witness to the intrusion by Israeli radicals, a grievous violation that strikes at the very core of the sanctity of Jerusalem, the City of Peace,” reads the statement.
The heads of churches noted that they have witnessed the erosion of safety for Muslim worshipers and the affront to the dignity of the Palestinian people. “Such actions transgress the principles of peace, love, and compassion that are the very essence of our faith,” reads the statement. “Jerusalem, the Holy City, is a tapestry woven with the threads of sacred history, each strand contributing to the rich fabric of its spiritual significance.”
The Status Quo must be cherished and safeguarded, urged the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.
The heads of churches reaffirmed their steadfast respect and support for the exclusive right of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif. “Let the beacon of peace and brotherly love shine forth from the Holy City, guiding us all towards the path of understanding, reconciliation, and enduring justice and peace,” concluded the statement.
WCC acting general secretary (during the vacation) Marianne Ejdersten expressed deep solidarity with the member churches and Christians of the region in their life and work, keeping the Christian faith and witness in the Holy Land alive and vibrant, as well as with all people in the region.
Referring to the increased violence, Ejdersten condemned attacks on Christians, Muslims and others seeking to exercise their right to freedom of religion in the Holy Land. “The WCC has consistently affirmed the long-held understanding that Jerusalem is a shared Holy City of three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and violations to the Status Quo bring division, and violence,” said Ejdersten.
A report sent to WCC News by The Justice and Peace Commission of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in the Holy Land noted: "In recent months, attacks on Christian clergy, churches, and holy places have roused the anxiety of many of our Christian faithful, particularly in Jerusalem and Haifa.”
"Spitting, verbal abuse, sometimes physical violence as well as vandalism and graffiti writing are mostly carried out by extremist religious Jews,” Justice and Peace reports.
The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), the official body which represents world Jewry in dialogue with other global faith bodies including the Vatican, the WCC and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said in a press release on 12 July “with dismay the recurrent expressions and demonstrations of intolerance in Israel perpetrated against Christians and Christian religious sites, such as spitting and desecration of graves and churches.”
The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, in its press release, “calls upon the security and law enforcement agencies of Israel to expend their full efforts to protect the safety, wellbeing, and religious freedom of Christians in the State of Israel by working to prevent such acts in the future, and by holding perpetrators accountable.”
Ejdersten underlined that “the WCC calls upon the government and authorities of Israel to ensure equal human rights for all people living under their responsibility, and to ensure accountability for attacks and violations against Palestinians, against the holy places, churches, Christian communities, Muslims and other groups, and to ensure free access to places of worship and holy sites. ”