The Heads of Churches in the Holy Land are united on these issues, and they share my views when I say the following:
The deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, is grossly dismissive of the scale of the diminishing indigenous Christian presence in our City (Sunday Telegraph 24th April 2022).
Indigenous Christians make up 1% of the population of the Holy Land, down from 12% a century ago, (2021 report by Birmingham University).
Christians are leaving their ancestral homes for a safer life and the freedom to worship as a direct consequence of discrimination and unpunished hate crimes carried out against their communities. In Jerusalem they face an increasingly hostile environment from Israeli radicals, with frequent harassment, vandalism and attacks.
Ms Nahoum’s claim that the Christian population has increased by 1.5% in the past year, quoting figures from the Israel Democratic Institute, is misleading and inaccurate. We have the first-hand knowledge of our indigenous Christians numbers, and we are amiss as to which community she’s looking at.
Radical groups, such as Ateret Cohanim, are squeezing Christians out of their physical environment. In addition to facing insidious erosion of their spiritual space – as seen during harsh authority restrictions over Orthodox Easter.
Our community urgently needs a political solution where the law is upheld consistently. Peace, love and tolerance must be our guiding principles and we call on Ms. Nahoum to engage with this problem, not brush it under the carpet.
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III – convenor of the Council of Churches in Jerusalem