Church leaders call for end to attacks on Christian sites in Holy Land

Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. (Photo: Unsplash/Christian Burri)

Attacks and harassment by extremists are posing "grave threats" to the Christian presence in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Church leaders have said. 

The concerns are raised in a report sent to the World Council of Churches (WCC) by The Justice and Peace Commission of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in the Holy Land. 

There have been reports of increased vandalism targeting churches, cemeteries and Christian properties, as well as physical and verbal abuse against Christian clergy.

The report states: "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."

Last month, the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) expressed "dismay" at "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".

It called on Israel to protect the safety and religious freedom of Christians and hold perpetrators to account.

WCC acting general secretary, Marianne Ejdersten, urged 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".

She said, "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."