02/02/2023, 21.28
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Custody bemoans latest anti-Christian attack in Jerusalem’s Church of the Flagellation

This morning, a 40-year-old American Jew slammed with a hammer a statue of Jesus in the Chapel of Condemnation at the first stop on the Via Dolorosa. Arrested by police, he remains under observation pending psychiatric evaluation. Custody releases a statement lamenting a series of attacks against Christians in a climate of widespread sectarian hate.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Custody of the Holy Land issued a statement signed by Custos Fr Francesco Patton and Secretary Fr Alberto Joan Pari following an attack this morning at 8.30 am in the Chapel of the Condemnation, Church of the Flagellation, in the Old City of Jerusalem, the first stop of the "Via Dolorosa".

“We follow with concern and strongly condemn this growing succession of serious acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community in Israel,” reads the statement.

The latest act of vandalism was carried out by an American Jewish tourist, who was stopped by a church employee after damaging with a hammer a statue of Christ. Handed over to the police, he is being held pending a psychiatric evaluation.

This hate crime follows a series of attacks directed against Christians in Israel in the last month.

According to the police, the culprit, a 40-year-old man, entered the church, tore down a statue of Jesus and defaced it. The church’s door keeper immediately immobilised him until police arrived.

A group of Jewish extremists was initially blamed, but in the end only one person was involved. Still, this does not mean that what happened today is less serious as it is linked to a broader climate.

“It is no coincidence  that  the  legitimization of discrimination and  violence in public opinion and in  the current  Israeli political environment  also  translates into acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community,” the Custody’s statement goes on to say.

In light of this, “We expect and demand that the Israeli government and law enforcement agencies act decisively to guarantee security for all communities, to guarantee the protection of religious minorities and to eradicate religious fanaticism. We specifically refer to these serious incidents of intolerance, crimes of hatred, and vandalism directed against Christians in Israel.”

Recently, religiously motivated incidents have been growing, not to mention violence between Israelis and Palestinians (fuelled by acts like Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's walk at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound).

At least five incidents involve Christians. As the Custody noted, religious Jews attacked tourists last week, “death to Christians” was scribbled on the walls of a monastery, and a Maronite centre in the northern city of Ma'alot was vandalised.

Today's incident in the Old City of Jerusalem is thus but the latest in a long series, some marked “price tags”, ostensibly by Jewish settlers or extremists.

Earlier this year, Jewish extremists desecrated a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion, before that they struck several other targets, including the church near the Upper Room (Cenacle), the basilica in Nazareth as well as other Catholic and Greek Orthodox buildings. Mosques and other Muslim places of worship have also been targeted.

“Price tag” refers to the practice by Israeli extremists to exact a “price” from Christians and Muslims for "taking their land”. It began in areas bordering the West Bank and Jerusalem, but now has spread to much of the country.

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