The ICoHS December Newsletter

The Ongoing Plight of Jerusalem’s Christians

The ongoing plight of Jerusalem’s Christians is receiving renewed attention in the media. This article, published by the American Conservative, links the recent arson attack at the Garden of Gethsemane to a concerted campaign by radical groups to drive Christians from the Holy Land. A spate of similar attacks over the last decade have resulted in very few convictions, with police reluctant to acknowledge any political or religious motivation behind crimes targeting Christians. At the other end of the wedge are attempts by the same radical groups to fraudulently acquire church property in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. If these attempts are successful it would fundamentally alter the Christian character of the ancient city, which in turn undermines the continued presence of Christians in the Holy Land.

Attack on Gethsemane Church “seeks to drive Christians from the Holy Land”

The most senior Christian leader in Jerusalem has described Friday’s arson attack on the Church of Gethsemane as “a crime inspired by an extreme ideology that seeks to drive Christians from the Holy Land.”

His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, condemned the attack carried out by a 49 year old Israeli radical. The man was restrained on site by the Church guard and Muslim and Christian bystanders, before being arrested by Israeli police.

On Friday 4 December the man entered the church at the Garden of Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, and poured a flammable liquid which he set fire to. A Byzantine floor mosaic and wooden pews were damaged in the fire, which was extinguished before causing widespread destruction or injury.

The Custody of the Holy Land is the body responsible for the protection of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Fr Ibrahim Faltas from the Custody called the attack “a crime, a crime that shouldn’t happen in a church in the Holy Land.”

Patriarch Theophilos, who has repeatedly called for greater protection for Christian sites in the Holy Land, added “I call on the international community to take its role in protecting Christian shrines, and preserving the indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land.”

Only last week, the Patriarch appeared at online events in Westminster and Washington DC to promote this message. On Thursday 2 December he spoke to a US State Department conference, hosted by US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback. On Monday 30 November, the Patriarch was a guest of honour at the inaugural meeting of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Christianity in the Holy Land in the UK Parliament.

Commenting on the attack on the Gethsemane Church, the Chair of the new APPG, Steve Double MP, said: “This attack at a site of great significance to Christians worldwide reveals the threat that radical groups pose. Incidents like this demonstrate why we have established a new APPG on Christianity in the Holy Land to help ensure it remains a place where Christians can continue to live, flourish and thrive.”

Anita Delhaas, Chief Executive of the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre, an organisation established to support the churches of the Holy Land, said “Christians in the Holy Land face many challenges to preserve their ancient heritage and present livelihoods. More than ever, Holy Land Christians need friends, supporters and advocates in Europe and America to speak up and take action to prevent incidents like this from happening in the first place.”

Condemnation of the attack has also come from the Jewish community. Rabbi David Mason, a trustee of the Council of Christians and Jews, said “We deplore this attack on a Christian Holy Site in Jerusalem. Jewish people around the world stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters wherever they face persecution because of their faith. Attacks like this redouble our efforts to improve relations between faith communities and build societies based on peaceful coexistence.”

For all enquiries contact Will Neal:

The ICoHS December Newsletter

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” Isaiah 40:31

Dear Patron,

At the end of 2020 we look back with mixed feelings on the past year. The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started this year with exciting plans to strengthen churches in the region and support them as they extend their ministries and enrich local communities in the Holy Land.

Due to travel and other Covid19 restrictions, many of our planned activities became virtual. We were happy to connect with many hundreds of people around the global through our digital events.

During these events we felt it important to highlight the impact of the pandemic in the Holy Land.

Covid19 brought life in the Holy Land to a stop. Since no pilgrims can visit the region, many Christians have lost their livelihoods. Thank you for supporting them through ICOHS’s Hope for the Holy Land Campaign around Easter and the virtual Bethlehem Star Event last month through which we were able to raise funding to support the local church and to contribute to the daily needs of many families in the Holy Land.

As our International Community of the Holy Sepulchre grows, we are happy to welcome many members from South America and therefore, this monthly newsletter is now also available in Spanish. We plan to translate our website in Spanish too in the coming months to enlarge our engagement.

Our CEO’s Christmas Address

In 2021 we hope to travel again to the Holy Land. We are making plans to organize an ICoHS Summit in September in the UK, Brussels and US and will inform you accordingly.

While we cannot travel yet, we want to continue sharing information about the realities on the ground for the Christians in this part of the world. We hope to share every month a virtual experience of one of the Feast of the Holy Land to connect our international community with the local churches.

Thank you again for your prayers and support during 2020.

On behalf of ICoHS, I wish you a blessed New Year.

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk

Chief Executive