The Church has been called to pray for and support Christians in Jerusalem. Church leaders there have said it's been a tough year full of many instances of intimidation, violence, vandalism, and property theft.
Dr Munib Younan, Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land told Premier: “The heads of churches… are worried about the incidents that are happening in attacking some of the clergy by certain extremist settlers.
“Once, someone spat on my cross, and I said, ‘May God forgive you because you don't know what you are doing’. But the problem is that those perpetrators enjoy impunity, and that's what makes it more difficult.”
Bishop Munib, who represents the Council of Churches in Jerusalem said in the summer there were multiple incidents of trespassing, vandalism and graffiti on Mt Zion, with a church groundskeeper saying “It’s becoming worse day by day, we report it to the police and nothing is done".
Meanwhile, in September, a large group of heavily armed IDF soldiers were reported to be on the highly disputed site, intimidating Christian pilgrims and worshippers.
Bishop Munib, said such incidents are contributing factors to young Christians leaving Jerusalem, something he said won’t have good long-term effects.
“The Christian youth who are losing hope in Jerusalem with the new government, which is very right wing. This creates hopelessness. Unfortunately, our statistics show 80 per cent of our young people, if they have the opportunity to emigrate, they emigrate.
“So what is Jerusalem without the Christians, and what is the Holy Land, without the Christians? This is the reason we have to keep the status quo in Jerusalem, even if we are less than one per cent of the total population.
“We are bridge builders, we are brokers of justice, we are ministers of reconciliation, and we have actors of peace. And that's the reason our presence; even if it's one person, we have to encourage it. And I ask the world to be strong, and stand with the Christians at this moment, in order that we may have justice in this culture of this country, in Palestine and Israel."
Pilgrims from around the world have gathered in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth for Christmas. Bishop Munib said despite the tumultuous year that has been for the Church, they will continue to “create hope in a hopeless situation”.
“We will give the message of joy in a time when people are mourning, we will give a message of faith in the time when people are losing their faith, we will never lose our faith.
“We are resilient. We will continue to witness for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whatever the situation is. That's our goal in this country. We believe in a God of justice, who will never allow injustice to continue and justice will come quicker than we think, as the birth of Jesus came quicker than people thought."