The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on world leaders to protect Christians in the Holy Land amid escalating attacks on clergy and religious sites.
It comes as, last week, church leaders in Jerusalem issued a joint letter to civil authorities in Israel, Palestine and Jordan warning of a growing threat to Christian communities. They described “countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults” and urged leaders to “engage in urgent dialogue” to resolve the issue.
The Romanian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem and the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified, are among the places that have been vandalised.
Now, Most Rev Justin Welby together with Palestinian Anglican bishop, Most Rev Hosam Naoum have joined them in urging governments and world leaders to "act fast" as there is "a historic tragedy unfolding in real time”.
They wrote: “This is the land that 2.5 billion Christians worldwide recognise as the birthplace of the church. Yet Christians, who have been a continuous presence there for over 2,000 years, are too often obscured and even forgotten beneath the competing perceptions of the geopolitics of the Middle East. The Christian presence punches above the weight of its numbers.”
“It does not have to be this way,” they continued. “This trend can be reversed - but action must be taken fast. We encourage governments and authorities in the region to listen to church leaders in their midst: To engage in the practical conversations that will lead to vital Christian culture and heritage being guarded and sustained. The time for action is now!”
They concluded: “So let’s get real this Christmas. When we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, or “Once in Royal David’s City”, let’s hear the voice of the church of the Holy Land - and thank them for their gift to all of us. Let’s pray for their flourishing and their future: a future intertwined with the future prosperity and common good of all communities.”