Christian leaders in Israel are concerned that their legacy and heritage are threatened by local groups.
The Christian leaders allege that "radical groups" are attempting to push Christian groups out of Israel.
"Despite two thousand years of faithful service, our presence is precarious, and our future is at risk," writes Fr. Francesco Patton, the Catholic Church's Custos of the Holy Land, in a Sunday opinion piece published by the Telegraph.
CHINA SANCTIONS US OFFICIALS OVER WASHINGTON RESPONSE TO XINJIANG AND UYGHURS
Patton points out how the Christian presence in Israel has decreased from 20% to 2% and that Christians have had their lives threatened by "radical local groups with extremist ideologies." These groups, Patton alleges, believe they have to "free the Old City of Jerusalem from its Christian presence." This duty includes the desecration of holy sites and offenses against local priests and worshippers.
"The frequency of these hate crimes leaves families and communities who have lived here for generations feeling unwelcome in their own homes," Patton argues.
He does not name any particular groups or organizations in his piece. However, Patton states that these individuals do not have any affiliation with the Israeli government.
The issue gained special attention on Dec. 14 when the patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem penned a statement about the growing threat.
"Throughout the Holy Land, Christians have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups," the letter alleges, claiming that there have been "countless" incidents of physical and verbal violence against priests and churches since 2012.
The letter encouraged political leaders in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan to deal with these groups and consider creating a "special Christian cultural and heritage zone to safeguard the integrity of the Christian Quarter in Old City Jerusalem."
The trends described by the church caught the attention of religious leaders across the world.
"[Israel] is the land that 2.5 billion Christians worldwide recognize as the birthplace of the church. Yet Christians, who have been a continuous presence there for over 2,000 years, are too often obscured and even forgotten beneath the competing perceptions of the geopolitics of the Middle East," Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a Sunday statement.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
The Israeli government released a statement Monday night, saying that the letter's allegations were baseless and "distort the reality of the Christian community in Israel," the BBC reported.
"Religious leaders have a critical role to play in education for tolerance and coexistence, and Church leaders should be expected to understand their responsibility and the consequences of what they have published, which could lead to violence and bring harm to innocent people," the Israeli government said. It also accused the Jerusalem church leaders of ignoring the plights of other Christian communities in the Middle East.
Original Location: Christian leaders in Israel allege that 'radical groups' are attempting to drive them out
Washington Examiner Videos