Jerusalem, Mar 21, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A bishop in Israel has renewed a call for educational leaders to address “bigoted attitudes” in the teaching of young people, and stated that failures of the Israeli education system to promote plurality is threatening religious diversity in the Holy Land.
Religious tensions in Israel are millennia old, but Christians in recent years say they have been attacked by some groups of Israeli settlers in traditionally Christian regions, and attacks on Christians have also been documented in the city of Jerusalem. Most of the Christians in Israel are Arabs belonging to either the Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, or Roman Catholic Churches.
“It is undoubtedly a question of education, and one that is caused by a more general problem of a certain cultural outlook, namely the refusal to accept the diversity of the other,” Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“We are extremely concerned because the mutual acceptance of others in society is the only sound basis of every society, above all amid the very great ethnic, cultural, religious and political diversity of Israel and the Middle East.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has repeatedly called for educational measures in response to vandalism attacks.
ACN also cited a 2012 message from the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS), representing both Roman Catholic and eastern Catholic leaders, requesting for “the educational system to be radically changed.”
“What is happening today in Israeli society that the Christians should become the scapegoats and be targeted by these acts of violence? What kind of teaching and contempt towards Christians is being taught in the schools? And why are those responsible never arrested or brought to trial?” the bishops wrote in 2012.
Some of the more recent incidents that ACN cited include an attack on Armenian Apostolic Orthodox seminarians in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 8, 2019, in which the seminarians were targeted by three young Jewish extremists who spat on them, saying “Death to the Christians” and “We will wipe you out of this country.”
In December 2019, vandals slashed the tires of over 160 vehicles and sprayed slogans such as “Arabs=enemies” in a Palestinian neighborhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the Associated Press reported.
Most recently, Marcuzzo pointed to a Feb. 11, 2020 incident in the Christian-majority town of Jish, in which vandals slashed the tires of dozens of cars and spray painted slogans on buildings warning of Jewish-Arab “assimilation,” Israeli police reported.
The Benedictine Dormition Abbey has been vandalized on five different occasions in recent years, with anti-Christian graffiti written in Hebrew.
Vandals shattered stained-glass windows and destroyed a statue of Mary in St. Stephen Church in the Beit Jamal Salesian monastery, 25 miles west of Jerusalem, in September 2017.
The Order of the Holy Sepulchre recently contributed funds for a fence project to protect another vandalized Catholic church in Nazareth, 90 miles north of Jerusalem, from future attacks.
In June 2015 an arson attack damaged the Church of the Multiplication, which is located on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus Christ fed thousands of people through the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes.
ACN reports that the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land’s requests to discuss these issues with the Israeli authorities, including with the Prime Minister, have been repeatedly denied.
Pope Francis has urged the necessity of maintaining the status quo in the Holy Land, such as in his meeting with Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, in October 2017, in which the two discussed the patriarch’s concern for the Christian community amid aggression by Jewish settlers.
The pope said, “any kind of violence, discrimination or displays of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshipers, or places of worship, must be firmly rejected. The Holy City, whose Status Quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all.”