Israel must protect Christians – MEPs

The Israeli government must take urgent action against the perpetrators of an arson attack on a Catholic church if it is to ensure interreligious peace and the safety of Israel’s Christian minority, according to European parliamentarians.

György Hölvényi and Jan Olbrycht, co-chairs of the EPP Group’s Working Group on Interreligious Dialogue, issued their statement in the aftermath of a June 18 attack on the recently renovated Benedictine monastery in Tabgha at the Sea of Gennesaret. The monastery and adjoining Church of the Multiplication is at the reputed site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Early investigations by the Israeli Interior Ministry indicate that the attack, which caused injuries and significant property damage, was carried out by Jewish religious extremists.

According to the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land the attack was the third on Israel’s Benedictine community in Israel, with a previous fire having been set on the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in May 2014, just minutes after the departure of Pope Francis. The Benedictine monks on Mount Zion, they said in a statement, are constant targets of “acts of contempt and violence”.

About 43 churches and mosques have been attacked in the Holy Land since December 2009.

While praising how President Reuven Rivlin and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely had swiftly condemned the “the attack on Israeli democracy”, and highlighting other signs of solidarity, including how that the majority of the local civil society stood up for the Benedictine community, the MEPs nonetheless urged the authorities to make every effort to protect Christianity, amounting to two percent of the overall population.