His Beatitude Theophilos III, the 141st Patriarch of Jerusalem, has described another attack on a Jerusalem church as a “terrorist act that reflects the extent of the Israeli extremists’ hatred for the Christian religion.”
Video footage shows the assailants attempting to gain entry by smashing a lock to the front gate of the church and destroying its CCTV cameras. The incident occurred on the evening of 2 February at the Romanian Orthodox Church in the Musrara neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It follows an arson attack on a church in the Garden of Gethsemane in December.
The unchecked activity of radical groups is a growing concern for the Holy Land’s ancient Christian community. The Patriarch linked the overt and violent actions of these groups, which include “intimidating Christian and Muslim worshipers, attacking clerics, writing hate graffiti on walls and doors of churches and mosques” to their less well documented but “hideous attempts to take over Orthodox Church properties in Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, using twisted methods and through corrupt deals filled with bribery, extortion and illegitimate pressure.”
The most senior Christian leader in Jerusalem also condemned “the failure of official authorities to deal with it. Their tolerance towards such terrorist acts will definitely lead to more fuelling of the conflict in the Holy City.”
The Patriarch “called upon the international community to intervene by opening a dialogue with the Israeli government aiming at putting a stop to these terrorist attacks and ending the continuous attempts of extremist Israeli groups to change the mosaic character of the city of Jerusalem by force.”
His calls were echoed by Dr Ramzi Khoury, President of the Higher Presidential Committee of Churches Affairs in Palestine, who decried the “continued impunity” for attacks on Christian and Muslim places of worship by radical groups who are “trying to drag the region into a religious conflict.”
Commenting on the attack Anita Delhaas, Chief Executive of the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre, which helps promote and protect the churches of the Holy Land, said
“the international Christian community must come together to present a unified voice in condemning such actions.” Ms Delhaas added that such incidents “only reinforce the idea for many Christians that the Holy Land is an increasingly intolerant place for them to live in and encourages many to permanently leave the region in search of more tolerant societies.”