Clergy: Attacks on churches ‘cross red lines'

Vandals sprayed the slogans “Death to Christians” on the Jerusalem Baptist Church last week.

Vandalized Baptist Church in Jerusalem  390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Vandalized Baptist Church in Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is responsible for the care of Catholic holy sites in Israel, wrote to President Shimon Peres last week, calling on him to urge authorities to prevent vandalism and attacks on churches and Christian places of worship.
Vandals sprayed the slogans “Death to Christians,” “We will crucify you” and “Jesus son of Mary the whore” on the Jerusalem Baptist Church last week. A similar attack was carried out earlier this month at the Monastery of the Cross, also in Jerusalem.
“These shocking slogans sprayed on Christian sites of prayer, especially in Jerusalem, hurt the feelings of all the Christians in Israel, regardless of their creed, as well as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the holy land, and millions more worldwide,” Pizzaballa wrote in his letter to Peres,  186972 reported on Monday.
He said the Christian community in Israel live “quietly and peacefully” and have ignored provocations “throughout the years,” but the recent incidents crossed red lines.
In comments made to The Jerusalem Post, a spokesman for Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the minister views any harm inflicted on the different religious congregations in the country, “and certainly on the Christian community,” very seriously.
He added that Yishai will not allow such incidents to become routine and will act together with relevant ministry and government officials, as well as law enforcement authorities, “to eradicate the phenomenon and bring the criminals responsible to justice.”
Speaking to the Post on Monday, Bishop of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem William Shomali said the Christian community was extremely angry over the attacks.
Shomali said that a long-term program teaching respect and religious coexistence needs to be implemented by the Israeli educational system, referring to other incidents of vandalism and frequent spitting attacks against Christian clergy, especially in Jerusalem.
“The people who do these things are the enemies of the state,” he said. “The eyes of the entire world are on Jerusalem, the city of three religions. Attacks on any place of worship, churches, synagogues or mosques, must all be condemned.” Shomali also called on law enforcement authorities to vigorously pursue the investigation into the recent attacks.
The AJC’s Rabbi David Rosen, interreligious affairs adviser to the Chief Rabbinate, said it is “vital that the State of Israel does all it can to give the Christian communities under its authority not only a sense of security in the present, but a sense of security for the future.”
“Aside from dealing with assaults on Christian property and defamation in general, there are many things the government should be doing to strengthen the Christian presence here,” he added.