Christians are in danger under Israeli government
The Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said that the region’s 2,000 year old Christian community has come under increasing abuse.
In February, a religious American Jew yanked a 10-foot portrayal of Christ from its base and smashed it on to the floor, striking Christ’s face with a hammer several times. Witnesses heard him yell “No idols in the holy city of Jerusalem!”
In March, two Israelis burst into the basilica beside the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Virgin Mary is said to have been buried. They tried to attack a priest with a metal rod before being detained.
“The frequency of these attacks, the aggressions, has become something new” Pizzaballa said in an interview. “These people feel they are protected … that the cultural and political atmosphere now can justify, or tolerate, actions against Christians. This escalation will bring more and more violence. It will create a situation that will be very difficult to correct.”
There are approximately 15,000 Christians in Jerusalem today. According to Yusef Daher from the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre, an organisation that coordinates between denominations, 2023 is becoming the worst year for Christians in a decade. The Centre documented at least seven serious cases of vandalism of church properties from January to mid-March, increased from six anti-Christian cases recorded throughout 2022. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has made life worse for Christians in the birthplace of Christianity.
Most Israeli officials did not express any concern over the vandalisation. The government also proposed to turn the Mount of Olives, a holy pilgrimage site with some dozen historic churches, into a national park.
Physical assaults and harassment of clergy are often unreported. Church leaders blame Israeli extremists for most of them, and they are afraid of further attacks.