The central committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, warned of the Israeli growing harassment and targeting of “the Christian presence in the holy land.”
The committee observed with deep concern that “the recent events in Israel and Palestine have highlighted the mounting obstacles to a just peace in the region, and escalating threats to the Christian presence in the land of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection.”
During the past seven months, the local Heads of Churches have issued no fewer than seven statements highlighting the threats posed by the attacks of extremist groups against clergy and church premises, Israeli limitations on freedom of religion and access to holy sites, and other actions that threaten that Status Quo and the multi-religious and multi-cultural identity of Jerusalem.
However, the latest developments indicate a rapidly deteriorating situation. For example, member churches’ most solemn religious observances were seriously disrupted, inhibited and in some cases prevented during Holy Week 2022.
More recently, on 9 June 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court dismissed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s attempt to annul a 2017 decision that gave the Israeli settler organization Ateret Kohanim the right to the expropriated Church properties at Jaffa Gate (New Imperial Hotel and Petra Hotel) following highly controversial and contested dealings in 2004. The properties concerned represent a major part of the ‘footprint’ of the Christian presence in Jerusalem.
The committee further pointed out that Israeli extremists broke into the Chapel of Pentecost of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on Mount Zion, a site that has often been subject to attacks, vandalization and trespassing by such radicals.
However, no arrests or other law enforcement actions against the perpetrators have been undertaken. Such attacks continue because of the impunity the perpetrators enjoy, it added.
The central committee also stressed that the lack of accountability for the IDF personnel considered most likely responsible for the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May 2022 contrasts sharply with the response to recent attacks on Israelis, in which Palestinians responsible for such attacks were killed, their homes demolished and their families displaced.
The discrimination against Palestinians is overt and systemic, and the ongoing half-century-long occupation continues to contradict the equal human dignity and human rights of Palestinians living under this system of control, while the response of the international community continues to reflect egregious double standards, according to the statement.
In our turn, we stress the urgent need to provide an international protection to the Christian holy sites and Palestinians in light of the growing Israeli forces and settlers’ attacks.