The Christians of Jerusalem Are Here to Stay

Published December 28th, 2021 - 12:00 GMT
A procession enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
A procession enters the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, to attend an Easter vigil mass on Holy Saturday, on April 3, 2021. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

Muslims and Christians in Palestine need to show one hand at this time of year against the Israeli onslaught that is being waged against the holy places throughout the occupied territories whether in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

These cities are constantly being attacked by Jewish extremists who will not let ago. The extremists are attacking purely on religious grounds in a bid to change the character and population form of these cities from a Palestinian/Arab/Muslim/Christian identity and character into a purely Jewish/Zionist/Israeli/radicals entity that is outlandish and no way reflect the reality of this cosmopolitan. 

The recent attacks on the Christian quarter of holy Jerusalem is both despicable and disheartening. It points to a much deeper malaise within Israeli society which, for all intense and purposes, seek to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and its holy places to goodness knows where. 

While the attacks, that have increased this year and which started as early as 2012 and include the desecration of churches, verbal abuse of priests and clergymen and wanton vandalising of holy sites is not only carried out by Jewish lunatic fringe groups as it is claimed, but by Jewish extremists  and Israeli right-wing groups who have a very distorted view about  Jerusalem belonging to them.

It has indeed become too much with the Israeli police, and even the government turning a blind eye! They say, the clergymen are making a mountain out of a mole hill and as yet are refusing to accept the mayhem the Jewish "minority" are creating in the "Christian Quarter"  of Jerusalem. But its for all to say with priests providing much anecdotes of the abuse, vile language and action they are subjected to by Jewish settlers decrying the Christian faith loud and clear. 

The Romanian Orthodox monastery has been continually attacked while the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsamene torched. In another cases and as retold by Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran Church, a Jewish extremist once spat on the cross he adorned, calling him a "worship idol". This is not to say anything about the two Armenian clergy attacked near the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. The list is endless.

The situation is becoming so intolerable that Christians from different denominations that include Anglican, Catholics and Lutherans are speaking out fearing for their places of worship such as the Church of the Redeemer, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and many more. Men of God are turning to the public domain to make their voices heard. 

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Hosam Naoum appealed to world opinion in a bid to change the dire situation the Christian holy places are being subjected to in Jerusalem's "Old City". In a forthright statement, they maintain Jewish radical groups want to drive Christians away from they holy land. They see what is happening as a "historic tragedy". 

The Christian community in Jerusalem already hovers at around 2000 people. They are only a tiny portion of the Christian minority in Palestine and Israel which is estimated to be at 2% of the population. In 1922, and at the end of the Ottoman Empire, they stood at 73,000, that is 10 % of the population. Within this context, Palestinian Christians and clergy feel those Jewish "radical groups" aim to empty the Christian Quarter of their inhabitants and their properties. 

And if they are allowed, this would be the case. The Israeli government who refuses to take concerted action up till now could be the loser in the short, medium and long terms. Christian religious tourists who come to Jerusalem annually generate for the local economy, including to Israel, $3 billion per year at a rough estimation. If this were to go it would be devastating, inbound revenues, and people lost from all over the world.

Quite rightly Christians the worldover, who make it a point of visiting Jerusalem are speaking up, following the "wake up" call from Welby and Naoum. Vatican News and The World Council of Churches which represent 349 Churches are speaking out. The WCC Secretary-General Ioan Sokka didn't mince words. He said that Christians in the Holy Land must be respected as part of the region's heritage.  

And so it would seem it is up to Israel to take a stand against the Jewish groups and extremists bearing in mind the Christian presence won't go away despite the present tactics, strategies and harassment exercised on a daily basis. Palestinian Christians with their churches, monasteries, chapels, vicars and nuns are not going to go away anytime soon nor is the "worldly presence" of Christianity and its different faiths and denominations. Israeli groups and/or the Jewish lunatic fringe would have to live with that

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