HOLY LAND: Crisis for Christians lurches from bad to worse

An empty shopping street in Muristan, a Christian quarter near Jerusalem’s Old City. (© ACN / A.H. Fritsch)
An empty shopping street in Muristan, a Christian quarter near Jerusalem’s Old City. (© ACN / A.H. Fritsch)

Christians in the Holy Land are struggling to put food on the table and pay their household bills as increasing conflict and tension plunge the region into unprecedented crisis.

Sources close to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) also highlighted an upsurge in acts of religious hatred, warning that Christians have faced threats and have been forced to conceal their religious identity.

The ACN sources, which have asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, described how many Christians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are facing financial ruin, with unemployment running at a record 72 percent.

The situation for Christians is especially desperate as most of them work in the tourism sector, which has been at a standstill since the conflict began.

The problems are compounded by mass layoffs and severe restrictions on freedom of movement.

ACN sources have confirmed reports that 80,000 Indian workers are expected to arrive in the country to take over jobs formerly held by Palestinians – a move seen as marginalising Muslims and Christians alike.

The source said: “Unfortunately the relationship of trust between Israel and the Palestinians has been torn apart and it is unlikely that it will be restored over the next decades.

“This will have a deep effect on the Christian community in the Holy Land.”

Meantime, amid an increase in acts of hostility to Christians, the source told ACN that for Christians “wearing a cross can get you into trouble.

“Sometimes you have to hide your identity in your own homeland to avoid problems.

“The presence in the area of groups with increasingly radical elements makes our situation even more difficult.”

In Jerusalem, there have been repeated cases of verbal abuse aimed at priests, as well as Christian and other religious pilgrims.

In early February, two youths spat on Benedictine Abbot Nikodemus Schnabel of the Church of the Dormition.

In response to the growing crisis facing Christians, ACN has provided emergency aid – food coupons, life-saving medicine and help with housing costs and tuition fees – for 3,448 Christians across the Holy Land who have lost their livelihoods.

The charity has also supported training programmes and internships for 62 young and vulnerable Christians in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


With thanks to Maria Lozano