HOLY LAND’S CHRISTIANS DREAM OF WORSHIPING SAFELY AND LIVING PEACEFULLY
Toronto, Canada Jeffrey S. Ram, Editor December 20, 2022
THIS CHRISTMAS, PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS UNDER ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN AUTHORITIES
Since the beginning of Christianity, Christians have always lived in the Holy Land. However, today Christians face violence not only from Hamas and radical Muslims in Arab-majority cities and towns in West Bank and Gaza but also from ultra-orthodox and other organized anti-Christian Jewish groups like Yad L’Achim and Ateret Cohanim in Jerusalem-- especially in the Christian Quarter, West Bank and Israel proper. The Jihadist Muslims and the Zionist Jews want to eliminate the Christian presence in the Holy Land. Due to the focus on the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, the plight of the Christians gets neglected.
Unless the global Christian community makes a concerted effort to shield the oppressed Christians in the Holy Land, Christianity will disappear from its birthplace.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where the Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
CHRISTIAN LEADERS’ AND KING ABDULLAH II’S CONCERN AT THE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS AND ATTACKS ON CHURCHES
In December 2021, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant leaders in Jerusalem wrote a joint letter to the civil authorities in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. They expressed concern over many incidents of physical and verbal assaults on priests and other clergies, vandalism and desecration of churches, and intimidation of Christians who want to worship freely and live peacefully. They lamented that the local political and security authorities did not stop the violence.
To highlight the sufferings of the Holy Land’s Christians, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have launched a website: https://protectingholylandchristians.org/
The website appeals for support: “The ancient, indigenous Christian communities in the Holy Land are vanishing. Fast.
“Together we can protect them and help to rebuild diverse, flourishing communities in the cradle of Christianity.”
On September 20, 2022, Jordan's King Abdullah II addressed the United Nations General Assembly and reinforced the Christians' distress. He affirmed, "Today, Christianity in the Holy City is under fire. The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. This cannot continue. Christianity is vital to the past and present of our region and the Holy Land. It must remain an integral part of our future."
ATTACKS BY ZIONIST JEWS AND ISRAELI AUTHORITIES' TACIT CONSENT
Radical Jews supported by ultra-nationalist and ultra-orthodox political parties terrorize Christians and attack churches.
· In June 2015, there was an arson attack on an auxiliary building of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tabgha. Christians believe Jesus fed thousands at the Sea of Galilee here. A graffiti was also written in Hebrew. Israeli officials labeled it as "terrorism." On August 19, 2021, the church was vandalized again, and the iron cross was pulled out of a basalt rock altar outside the church.
· The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified, was attacked in December 2020.
· The Romanian Orthodox Church in the Musrara area of Jerusalem was attacked on February 2, 2021.
· The Romanian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem was vandalized for the fourth time in a row in a single month in March 2021.
· On March 27, 2022, Israeli settlers of the Ateret Cohanim organization seized the Petra Hotel, owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. Patriarch Theophilos III criticized the attack and described Ateret Cohanim as “an extremist group that practices criminal activities and acts as if it is above the law.”
· On June 8, 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court favored the radical Ateret Cohanim in a decision. It allowed this Zionist Israeli organization to expropriate the properties of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate (Bab Al-Khalil) in Jerusalem. The Patriarchate considered the court’s decision unfair because it had no legal or logical basis.
· Some ultra-Orthodox Jews insult, curse, and even spit on Christian clergymen in Jerusalem.
Christian leaders blame the Israeli government for remaining silent and giving tacit consent to anti-Christian violence and land expropriation activities of extremist Jewish groups and individuals.
VIOLENCE BY HAMAS AUTHORITIES AND JIHADIST MUSLIMS
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement carry out their agenda of Islamization of the Gaza Strip and other areas. With the support of the Hamas authorities, Muslim extremists terrorize Christians either to coerce them to convert to Islam or to hound them out.
In 1999, radical Muslims rioted in Nazareth to seize land from a prominent Christian shrine to build a mosque. In 2014, a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was set up in front of a church in Nazareth. On Oct. 29, 2022, radical Muslims attacked an Orthodox church in Beit Sahur, a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem. They threw stones and injured many worshippers.
For Christians, Gaza is hell. Unable to lead a peaceful life as Christians, many Christian families have converted to Islam, and quite a few others have left for a better life elsewhere. Christian leaders fear that there might be no new generations of Christians in Gaza.
THE DECLINE OF THE CHRISTIAN POPULATION IN THE HOLY LAND
According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics data published on December 21, 2021, there were 182,000 Christians in Israel. They are 1.9 percent of the estimated total population of 9.5 percent. In 1922, Christians were 11 percent of the total population of Palestine.
Christians were about 25% of Jerusalem's population in 1922, but now they are only 2%. The number of Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem today is less than 2,000. There used to be about 7,000 Christians in Gaza Strip in 2007 when Hamas took over, but now there are less than 1,000. In 1950, Christians were 21 percent of Israel's Arab population, but now they are only 7 percent.
Zionist Jewish groups like Yad L'Achim and Ateret Cohanim expropriate properties in the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem and replace Christian residents with Jews. Their goal is a demographic Judaization and Israelization of Jerusalem.
In 2017, there were only about 15,800 Christians out of Jerusalem's population of 901,300 people.
The number of Christians is increasing, but their percentage in the total population is shrinking because the number of Muslims and Jews is growing much faster.
THE GLOBAL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY SHOULD ACT TO SHIELD HOLY LAND’S ENDANGERED CHRISTIANS
Western Christians should lobby their national governments, and all Christians should urge the United Nations to intercede on behalf of endangered Christians. They should pressure Israeli and Palestinian authorities to take adequate measures to stop attacks on Christians and churches. The civil authorities in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan should create a special Christian cultural and heritage zone to safeguard the integrity of the Christian Quarter in Old City Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian authorities should ensure Christians worship safely and live peacefully in the Holy Land.
WISHING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A HEALTHY, HAPPY, AND BLESSED NEW YEAR.
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