Israeli extremists threaten Christian presence in Jerusalem, church leader says – Journal

JERUSALEM: The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem accused radical Israeli groups of threatening the presence of Christians in the holy city, in comments Israeli officials dismissed as baseless.

In a The Times of London column on Saturday, Theophilos III said he believed the goal was to drive the Christian community out of the Old City of Jerusalem. Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in a 1967 war. It annexed East Jerusalem after the war in a move that did not win the day. international recognition.

“Our presence in Jerusalem is threatened,” the Patriarch wrote in the article, published a day after the Greek Orthodox celebration of Christmas.

“Our churches are threatened by radical Israeli fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists, the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly, ”he said.

“Our brothers and sisters are victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalized. Our clergy are subjected to frequent intimidation.

In labeling the extremists as Israelis, Theophilos’ criticism was more personal and incisive than that of a collective statement issued by heads of other churches in Jerusalem before Christmas.

Their statement spoke of “frequent and supported attacks by radical fringe groups,” but did not identify them as Israelis. A US State Department report released last year on religious freedom around the world said Christian clergy and pilgrims continued to report cases of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem harassing or spitting at them.

Religious groups have been reporting vandalism attacks on religious sites in the city for some time.

Theophilos has neither accused any radical group by name nor cited specific incidents. He did not provide proof that they were Israeli, or that their goal was to drive Christians out of the city.

On Sunday, an Israeli official said the reality on the ground for Christians was completely different from that described by the Patriarch, citing a Foreign Ministry statement on December 22 that refuted previous claims by church leaders.

In his column, Theophilos said the radicals he criticized “are not representative of the State of Israel or the Jewish people,” and called for Jerusalem to remain a diverse “Mosaic community” of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Posted in Dawn, le 10 January 2022

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