Concerns for treatment of believers in Holy Land

(Photo: Unsplash/Robert Bye)

Researchers from Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has provided support to persecuted Christians for over six decades, are monitoring growing religious tensions in Israel after leaders of several Christian denominations expressed concern over the growing number of verbal and physical attacks against Christians as well as the desecration of Christian holy sites since the start of the year.

Israel is not in Open Doors' World Watch list, which ranks countries where Christians face serious persecution, but according to the organisation's sources in Israel, the atmosphere towards Christians in the country has changed since the formation of the new coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police have launched 16 investigations this year, and made 21 arrests and detentions in connection with attacks on Christians, Open Doors reports.

Visiting the Stella Maris monastery in Haifa to express his solidarity with Christians, Israel's President, Isaac Herzog, spoke out against the growing trend of religious intolerance and said that the threats against Christians "need to be uprooted".

"In recent months, we have seen a very serious phenomenon toward the Christian denominations in the Holy Land. Our brothers and sisters, Christian citizens, who feel attacked in their places of prayer, in their cemeteries, on the streets", AI Monitor quoted him as saying. "I view this phenomenon as extreme and unacceptable in any shape or form."

President Herzog's comments came after a recent spate of attacks at the monastery by Jewish ultra-Orthodox extremists, with dozens of other hate crimes against Christians being recorded during 2023.

"I utterly condemn violence, in all its forms, directed by a small and extreme group, towards the holy places of the Christian faith, and against Christian clergy in Israel in general, and in Jerusalem in particular", the President said.

"This includes spitting, and the desecration of graves and churches. A serious phenomenon that has occurred in the last weeks and months especially".

The president's comments have been welcomed by the Latin Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Other faith leaders also spoke out on the issue, with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III telling the Times of Israel: "We need peace. We are people that promote the values of the Bible. We promote the values of mutual respect and freedom of worship."

Republished from Christian Today UK.