Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land and Guardian of Mount Zion, has urged the Israeli government to hold aggressors accountable in the wake of the sharp rise in attacks on Christian religious figures and holy sites in Old Jerusalem by extremist Jewish settlers.
Other church officials demanded international intervention since the “Israeli authorities aren’t tackling this phenomenon seriously.”
John Munayer, a researcher from Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, said that Armenian Christian religious men have been most subject to aggression given that they reside in a town near the Jewish quarter.
Assyrians are also facing harsh attacks, they are being spat on and pushed to the ground, Munayer added. “They have become hesitant of walking on the street.”
The coordination committee of the Jerusalemite Churches revealed in a report that a priest complained that he has been spat on no less than 90 times since the beginning of the year.
The purpose behind these attacks is obvious “to send away the Christians left in Jerusalem,” the committee added.
Christians represented a quarter of Jerusalem residents one hundred years ago and half of the Arab residents in 1948. This has dropped to one percent today, around 12,500 individuals.
Jerusalem is the second most important Christian landmark as it is the place of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The number of Christians has dropped remarkably following the Israeli occupation in 1967.
The Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches of Jerusalem issued a statement in December on the current threat to the Christian presence in the Holy Land before the formation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government.
“Since 2012 there have been countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives,” the statement read.
These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out, it added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called for bringing to justice the Israeli officials responsible for the attack against the Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
The Ministry added that these offensive behaviors can only cause profound concern, stressing that the number of anti-Christian incidents has grown at an alarming pace recently, as churches, cemeteries of various Christian denominations, clergy, and monks, have become targets for such attacks.
“We are convinced that there is no justification and that there can never be any justification, for such criminal acts, and hope that the Israeli authorities will provide an unequivocal assessment of what happened and take comprehensive measures to bring perpetrators to justice and prevent the recurrence of such attacks in the future.”