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Violence Against Christians: Degradation of the Sacred and the Holy in Jerusalem

Just this past week, I heard a colleague of mine - a missionary for an international Christian agency based in Jerusalem - tell how he was spat upon when coming out of a worship service in the Old City of Jerusalem. The story of priests and Christian leaders experiencing harassment, jeering, and even the throwing of stones is not new in the sacred Holy City. Unfortunately, the number of incidents has risen dramatically this past year, and the safety and security of local Christians living in the region has become increasingly at risk. 

The Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post reported in August 2023 rising concern about incidents of hatred against Christians, citing “dozens of incidents, ranging from spitting to vandalism to assault,” having been committed by extremist Jews against Christians in Israel this past year. Incidents have been on the rise for months. In March of 2023, Churches for Middle East Peace joined other U.S. Christian Faith Leaders, including Rev. Dr. Zachary King, General Secretary of Christian Reformed Church in North America, to support the Christian Community in Jerusalem after an attack on the Church of Gethsemane in East Jerusalem. The March letter called on the U.S. government to do everything in its power to “ensure Jerusalem is a city in which freedom of religion and free access to worship for all are strengthened and respected.” Unfortunately, in past months, there has only been further degradation of the sacred and the holy in Jerusalem for Christian communities. 

While several Israeli officials, including Israeli President Herzog, have been outspoken and even condemned attacks against Christians, some leaders like Palestinian Christian Wadie Abunassar say that “nice words” are insufficient. Calling for action, Abunassar is the coordinator of the Holy Land Christian Forum, and he asks how the Israeli government would respond if these attacks were not against Arabs but instead against Jews. 

Many assert that increased attacks on the Christian community are a direct result of the rise of the far-right government in Israel. According to the LA Times, Christian leaders like the Vatican-appointed Latin Patriarch, recently appointed Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa state, “the region’s 2,000-year-old Christian community has come under increasing attack, with the most right-wing government in Israel’s history emboldening extremists, who are harassing clergy and vandalizing religious property at a quickening pace.” The far-right government in Israel supports settlement expansion, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and other violations of human rights and activities that parallel the increase in anti-Christian incidents. 

Increased incidents against Christians are only one of the realities and consequences of the current extreme government in Israel today. Throughout the year, CMEP has been calling attention to the violence and devastating effects on Palestinians living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. We used statements in January 2023 calling for an end to the violence. In February 2023, CMEP issued a statement against the expansion of settlements and state violence. CMEP published another call in May 2023 in response to the effects of violence on civilians in Gaza. It has been challenging to call adequate attention to the treatment of Christians in Jerusalem and Israel when civilians, including women and children, have been killed due to escalating violence and extremism. By mid-August 2023, more than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed in the conflict thus far this year. That is the highest number of fatalities in a year since 2005 during the Second Intifada. According to Al Jazeera, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, told the UN Security Council in August 2023 that the escalating violence is “fueled by growing despair.” 

How can Christians in the United States work toward peace?

At Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), we often say, “Pray for peace and work for justice.” Once a month, CMEP highlights partners from the Middle East and we invite our member communions, including the CRC and more than 30 other denominations, to pray with us. We gather on the first Wednesday of the month. Visit to find out more. Our October prayer gathering will focus on praying for Armenia and the conflict related to Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Sign up for our newsletters to stay informed about what’s happening in Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine, and the broader Middle East.

Every Friday, we curate news from the Middle East so that you can skim articles and read more in-depth to find out what’s happening in the Holy City, what’s affecting the Christian community, and where there is war and conflict. Knowing what is happening helps us understand how to pray and respond. Our newsletter also announces events, webinars, and other opportunities to learn and grow your knowledge of what's happening in the Middle East. Sign up for our newsletters here.

Join us and become an advocate for U.S. policies that support peace.

You can find our CMEP Action Alerts here. Action Alerts invite you to contact your elected officials directly via our system, phone, email, or even in person to share what you care about. CMEP advocates for holistic peacebuilding, religious freedom, the sustainability of the church, humanitarian and economic concerns, and human rights. 

A Prayer for Christians in the Holy Land 

Lord Jesus Christ - We pray for the Holy City of Jerusalem. May the sacred city genuinely live up to its name as the city of peace. We pray that Christians and all people living in Jerusalem and the Holy Land would not need to live in fear but that your sustaining and powerful grace would carry them through. We pray for an end to violence. We pray for peace and that your divine justice will have its way. In the name of Christ. Amen. 

Picture from the author of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem

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