Christian presence in Holy Land 'under attack' says rector

Christian presence in Holy Land 'under attack' says rector

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has expressed concern over the infringement of religious freedom on Christians in the Holy Land.

It follows an incident where more than a thousand Orthodox Christians were denied access to Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

A ban had been issued to prevent assembly at the site over safety concerns.

The WCC says there has been repeated harassment of Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere, and local churches in Jerusalem have been issuing statements asking for help and the protection of the Indigenous Christian presence.

In the statement, the WCC 's General Secretary Rev Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, said: “No less than 1,000 cars waited at multiple checkpoints [at Mount Tabor] set up by the Israeli police, and were consequently delayed for two-and-a-half hours. Among those who were stopped was Dr Audeh Quawas, executive committee member of the World Council of Churches. The faithful were surprised that a ban was issued to prevent assembly on Mount Tabor and the open area, and that the police cited safety concerns for the participants. A few days previously, a meeting took place between the Orthodox Council in Nazareth and the Israeli authorities, where it was agreed that the event would take place. Impediment of the Christian celebration on Mount Tabor comes in the aftermath of repeated harassment of Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere.

"The World Council of Churches views with concern the infringement on religious freedom, the denial of worship, and the constraints on the life of the Christian community in the Holy Land under the pretext of safety and security as unacceptable. The World Council of Churches calls upon the Government of Israel to allow Christian worship and community events to proceed freely, and to protect the rights of religious freedom for all people.”