Amid ongoing protests in Israel over PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform and tensions between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Christian communities continue to be targeted by religious extremists.
The latest incident occurred on Sunday, 26 March, in Nazareth where a young man reportedly entered a Maronite church during Mass and asked the parochial vicar to recite the Koran. According to Abouna agency, when the priest refused, the man began to pray aloud until a group of people managed to convince him to leave.
Attacks targeting churches, cemeteries, and Christian properties, in addition to physical and verbal abuse against Christian clergy by Israeli extremist settlers, have become almost a daily occurrence in recent times, and have increased significantly since the formation of the new far-right coalition government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in December 2022.
One of the latest incidents occurred on New Year’s Day when two men toppled tombstones and smashed crosses in an Anglican cemetery. Several Armenian and Syriac priests and religious have also reported frequent harassment and verbal violence.
CHURCH IS NOT INTIMIDATED
Commenting on these events, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, says that the Church is concerned, but not intimidated by extremists, noting that not all Muslims and Jews are fanatics.
“We won’t allow a few deranged criminals to dictate our agenda. We have something bigger than the hate of these people. Extremisms are all the same, but we are not afraid. We know that the general climate is rather negative and we are heading towards an escalation of violence, but we must not be frightened,” said Archbishop Pizzaballa, reiterating the need to continue seeking interreligious cooperation.
“As a Christian community, we must work and cooperate to build communities of solidarity without letting ourselves be frightened by a few extremists.”
His words were echoed by Monsignor Rafic Nahra, the Patriarchal Vicar for Israel: “Christians are a small community in this country, in the face of so many fundamentalist movements of all religions. We have a mission here: to bear witness to Jesus’ Gospel of reconciliation with courage. We must all do our part to live well together”.
After the recent attack against the Church of Gethsemane, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem demanded that “legal measures be taken against all those involved in terrorist crimes against any holy site.” Published in Vatican News