Christian leaders accuse Israel of 'weakening the Christian presence' in Jerusalem

The heads of the Churches in the Holy City issue a joint statement, criticising the court ruling in the Jaffa Gate case. A “vital, vibrant” Christian community is an essential part of society. They appeal to the "faithful around the world, as well as the heads of governments, and all people of good will".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The heads of the Churches of Jerusalem accuse Israel of violating the status quo, which establishes the criteria for access and prayer in the places of worship of the Holy Land.

Church leaders made the charge in a statement following a court decision in the Jaffa Gate case that confirms the sale of three Orthodox Church buildings to a group of Jewish settlers, and a proposed bill in the Knesset which they deem “politically motivated that would restrict the rights of the Churches over our own property.”

In their statement, the Church leaders say "We see in these actions a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and to weaken the Christian presence."

Not mentioned in the press release, the draft bill is likely to include the nationalisation of Church assets sold to private companies, a proposal made by the Kulanu party and voted by 39 members of the Knesset. For Church leaders, these actions aim at weakening the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

"We affirm in the clearest possible terms that a vital, vibrant Christian community is an essential element in the make-up of our diverse society, and threats to the Christian community can only increase the troubling tensions that have emerged in these turbulent times."

"Such attempts to undermine the Christian community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land do not affect one Church only; they affect us all, and they affect Christians and all people of good will around the world".

"We have always been faithful to our mission to ensure that Jerusalem and the Holy Sites are open to all, without distinction or discrimination".

Addressing "our fellow Church leaders and faithful around the world, as well as the heads of governments, and all people of good will”, the heads of the Churches “cannot stress strongly enough the very serious situation that this recent systematic assault on the Status Quo has had on the integrity of Jerusalem and on the well-being of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, as well as on the stability of our society.”

For years, Israeli Jewish groups have sought to seize properties in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, putting economic and political pressures on Christian and Muslim Arab residents, buying up land, or getting it expropriated.