Bipartisan US Congress letter raises concerns over Christians in Jerusalem
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have issued a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken raising the alarm over the treatment of Christians in Jerusalem, though oddly not mentioning any of the ongoing news of violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the same city.
The letter, led by progressive Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro and Florida Republican Gus Bilirakis states that they are "deeply concerned by the rise in attacks against the Christian community in Jerusalem."
It gives examples of Israelis attacking Christians in and around Jerusalem, including arson, vandalism and physical attacks.
"We write today as a bipartisan group of Members of Congress deeply concerned by the rise in attacks against the Christian community in Jerusalem," reads the letter, which vaguely referred to "radical groups" that perpetrated these acts in 2020 and 2021.
"In December 2020, an Israeli man attempted to set fire to the Church of All Nations located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. In the span of one month in 2021, the Monastery of the Romanian Church in Jerusalem was the target of four acts of vandalism. Christian clergy are also targets of attacks. In May 2021, an Armenian priest was attacked by three Israeli youths as he made his way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem," the letter said.
The letter then cites Christian leaders from Jerusalem raising concerns about attacks on holy sites.
It goes on to point out the importance of humanitarian aid that goes through Christian institutions in Jerusalem. It also notes the importance of Christian tourism to the Holy Land, which generates $US 3 billion annually in revenue for the Israeli economy, despite the community's relatively small size.
The letter is being promoted by the pro-Israel liberal lobby group J-Street.
"This is an important bipartisan initiative by Reps. Castro and Bilirakis calling on Secretary Blinken to work with the Israeli government to ensure accountability for Jewish extremists attacking Christian institutions in Jerusalem, and J Street is pleased to welcome it," J Street's director of government affairs, Debra Shushan, told Jewish Insider, which reported on the letter on Sunday.
The letter concludes by urging the State Department to act proactively to try to protect the rights of vulnerable communities around the world. It was CC'd to Rashad Hussain, ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
In the two-page letter, there is no mention of Palestinians, except in one reference to the Palestinian Territories. Muslim and Islam are only mentioned once each, both in reference to Jerusalem’s three major monotheistic faiths.