Ahead of Pope Francis’ Holy Land visit, leaders of Christian churches in the region plan to launch an international awareness campaign after a series of anti-Christian vandalisms believed to have been carried out by Jewish extremists.
News of the campaign, which was announced on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem this month, comes weeks before the pope’s visit to Israel and the West Bank next weekend.
The announcement was spurred by what the patriarchate called a “wave of fanaticism and intimidation” against local Christians.
On Friday, graffiti declaring “King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage” was discovered scrawled on a wall opposite a Jerusalem church. Four days earlier, a Catholic official discovered that the words “Death to Arabs, Christians and all those who hate Israel” had been spray-painted in Hebrew on a column in front of the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Center. The words were topped by a Star of David.
“Mere coincidence?” the website asks.
“We do not doubt the willingness of the State of Israel to finish with these acts, which don’t serve the image of Israel,” said Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem. “But efforts failed and acts of vandalism continue increasing.”
The Vatican office that maintains all Catholic Church property in Jerusalem has asked Israeli authorities to “work urgently against extremist elements” to ensure peace and safeguard Christian holy places.
Police say they are doing what they can to prevent these attacks, something church officials dispute.
“A new strategy is needed,” Shomali said. “Let us not forget that the kind of education received by these people prepares them to do similar acts. We have to improve the educational side if we want to avoid the repetition of such acts on the long-term period.”