Automatic translation of the record is corrected by the author

The heads of the Churches of Jerusalem declared a threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land

On December 13, 2021, thirteen Christian Patriarchs and heads of Churches of Jerusalem issued a statement, drawing the attention of state authorities and the public to the threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land caused, in particular, by the activities of radical groups - to the facts of physical attacks and insults against the clergy, attacks on Christian churches and acts of vandalism against shrines, as well as attempts to violate the integrity and cultural identity of the Christian Quarter of the Old City in order to expel, eventually, the Christian community from Jerusalem.

Among those who signed the appeal are the Primate of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nurhan Manukyan, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa and other Christian leaders of the region.

The text of the statement is given below in full.

Everywhere in the Holy Land, Christians are victims of frequent and prolonged attacks by extremely radical groups. Since 2012, priests and other representatives of the clergy have been subjected to countless physical attacks and insults, attacks on Christian churches have taken place, acts of vandalism and desecration of holy places have been committed, intimidation of local Christians who just want to freely profess their faith and live an ordinary life has not stopped. Systematically using such tactics, radical groups are trying to expel the Christian community from Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land.

We note with gratitude that the Israeli Government has publicly committed itself to ensuring the safety of Christians and protecting their homes in the Holy Land, as well as preserving the Christian community as an integral part of the local community with its diversity. We consider the Government's actions aimed at providing assistance to millions of Christian pilgrims visiting the holy places of this region to be evidence of the efforts being made in this direction. In this regard, it is of serious concern that efforts at the national level are being nullified due to the inability of local politicians, officials and law enforcement services to curb radical groups whose members intimidate local Christians, attack clergy and desecrate holy places and church property.

The principle of protecting the special historical quarters of Jerusalem in their spiritual and cultural identity has already been enshrined in Israeli legislation in relation to the Jewish Quarter. Despite this, seeking to weaken the Christian presence, radical groups continue to buy strategically important real estate in the Christian quarter, resorting to secret machinations and intimidation tactics to evict residents from their homes. This leads to a significant reduction in the Christian population and further disruption of the historical pilgrimage routes between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Christian pilgrimage tourism, being the right of every Christian in the world, brings huge profits to Israel, contributing to the development of its economy and society. According to a recent report by the University of Birmingham, Christian pilgrimages and tourism bring three billion dollars to the Israeli economy. The local Christian community, which is numerically small and increasingly shrinking, at the same time provides a disproportionately large range of services in various fields, including education and healthcare, in Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

In view of the fact that the local political authorities of Israel, Palestine and Jordan have publicly declared their readiness to stand up for religious freedom, we urge them to initiate a dialogue with us, the leaders of the Churches, as soon as possible in order to:

  1. to respond to the challenges that the actions of radical groups in Jerusalem pose both to the Christian community and to the rule of law, and to do everything to ensure that no citizen and no organization faces the threat of violence and intimidation;

  2. Start a dialogue with the aim of creating a special Christian cultural heritage zone in order to ensure the integrity of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and preserve its unique identity and heritage for the welfare of the local community, the country and the world.

Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem