Christians in the Holy Land Face Extinction

INTRODUCTION

As tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians rise, Christians are caught in the crossfires and face the targeted destruction of their own spaces and communities in the Holy Land by religious extremists.

WRITTEN BY

SHARE THE WORD

PUBLISHED ON

In the Holy Land, Jews seem to live in perpetual fear of Muslims in unrelenting anger. Caught in the crossfires are Christians because every inch of Jerusalem means history and heritage to followers of the three Abrahamic religions.

Churches, shrines, and monasteries are places of sanctuary, identity, and hope for local Christians who face existential threats because Jews in Israel are told to see Muslims in Palestine as their bête-noir.

This year’s Ramadan, which started on March 22, may prove to be the most difficult to handle in years as tensions have remained high in the Holy Land with an uptick in violence so far this year.

During Ramadan, when Muslims worldwide fast and pray, Israelis and Palestinians often engage in clashes with grenades and rocket launchers. The Islamic holy month started on a sad note this year as already more than 84 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, which at this rate will surpass last year’s toll of 158, the highest since 2007.

 

CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

Citing a past track record in the violence-hit Holy Land, security experts say that as more Palestinians are killed in clashes, the greater the likelihood of other Palestinians is to join the cycle of violence.

On the Israeli side, 13 people died in Palestinian attacks so far this year, adding to the already existing fear of the Jewish state to retaliate, come what may.

Israeli security forces are leaving no stone unturned to prevent sectarian violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Christian holiday of Easter.

The Israeli government has beefed up security throughout the Holy Land, especially in the Old City and near the Temple Mount, as thousands of Palestinians are expected to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third-holiest site in Islam – till the end of Ramadan on April 21.

Jews revere the hilltop as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

In late February, talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials took place in Jordan, which acts as the official custodian of Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem, to defuse tensions during Ramadan.  They are expected to take stock of the situation in April in Sharm-el Sheik, Egypt, with the participation of senior officials from the US, Egypt, and Jordan.

 

ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN SITES

Since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2014, attacks on Christian sites – dating back to the second or third century – have become a routine affair.

Most Christians in Israel are Arabs belonging either to the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Roman Catholic Churches.

So far this year, violence against Christians and their properties has taken a turn for the worse. On March 19, two radical Israeli men reportedly entered the Church of Gethsemane in East Jerusalem, where the Tomb of the Virgin Mary is believed to be located, and physically attacked a bishop and two priests who were conducting a religious service. They also attempted to destroy the church properties.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, represented by Patriarch Theophilus III, along with the Holy Synod and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, criticized the vandalism, saying it “cannot be justified under any circumstances.”

On March 16, a Catholic school run by the Franciscan Sisters of Nazareth was targeted by two unknown armed men. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

In February, a statue of Jesus Christ was vandalized at the Church of the Condemnation, considered the place where Jesus was flogged and sentenced to death. A US tourist was held as the suspect.

In the same month, dozens of Christian graves were desecrated at a cemetery on Mount Zion, thought to be the location where Jesus had his Last Supper. Two Jewish teens were later arrested.

On New Year’s Day, two men toppled tombstones and smashed crosses in an Anglican cemetery.

Among the previous attacks include an attempted arson attack on the Basilica of the Agony, located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem next to the Garden of Gethsemane, by a 45-year-old Jewish man; five different vandalism attacks on the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem; an attempted arson by an assailant in 2014 on the same abbey; and an arson attack on Church of the Multiplication, located on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus fed thousands through the multiplication of loaves and fishes.

 

HOLY SITES UNDER THREAT

The holy sites in Jerusalem are threatened on multiple fronts, including vandalism, intimidation from radical settlers, and hostile government policies like taxation of church-owned properties and confiscation of land sold by churches to private groups supposedly to defend the interests of tenants.

The hostile government policies forced Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Church leaders to temporarily down the shutters of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in February 2018.

In East Jerusalem, 230,000 Israelis live along with at least 360,000 Palestinians. Both want the place as the capital of their future state. The conflict between them only serves to further divide the Christians –those siding with Palestinians due to their Arab roots and those batting for the Jewish state.

In the absence of efforts to promote plurality and religious diversity and the state working for only one set of people, Christians in the Holy Land are threatened by money and muscle power at the same time. It is reported that properties owned by Christians are diminishing in the Christian quarters of Old City Jerusalem as a systematic attempt is to cast them away.

Christians are essential to the identity of Jerusalem – the common patrimony of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – and making it the exclusive monopoly of one religion is equal to whitewashing history.   Published in Ucanews

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Frontline

Jesus wept!

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

WM SPECIAL

Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


FRONTIERS

Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


UNITY IN DIVERSITY

Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


FRONTLINE

Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


IN FOCUS

Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


FAITH@50

As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


INSIGHT

Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


FILIPINO FOCUS

The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


FOLLOW ME

Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


MISSION IS FUN

As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


LIVING COMMUNION

To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


WINDS OF THE SPIRIT

A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


BRIDGE BUILDERS

On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


INTERVIEW

Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


WORLD TOUCH

News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


CARE OF THE EARTH

A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


EDITORIAL

The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


YOUNG HEART

A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


SCROLL

A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE

Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


ONE BY ONE

Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


INCREASE OUR FAITH

Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


SPECIAL MOMENTS

Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


PROFILE

A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


WM REPORTS

Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


LIFE'S ESSENTIALS

A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


ASIAN FOCUS

Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


THE SEARCHER'S PATH

The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


INDIAN FOCUS

The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


AFRICAN FOCUS

The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


JOURNEY MOMENTS

Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


IGNATIUS STEPS

On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS

Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


INSIDE THE HOLY BOOK

In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


CONVERSATIONS

Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart