Christians living in the land where Jesus lived face many difficulties. In Israel, church buildings are vandalised and some ultra-Orthodox Jews persecute the tiny Christian minority. Messianic Jews experience the most harassment for their decision to follow the Lord. However, the Christian population is growing in Israel.
Christians in Jerusalem came under serious threat during Ramadan in June 2015 when the Islamic State jihadist group spread leaflets around the city ordering the believers to leave before the end of Ramadan, or be killed. “We tell the heretic Christians, you must clear out immediately or we’ll massacre you on Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, and one month is time enough to evacuate.” The date passed without fulfilment of the threat, but fear lingers among the city’s tiny Christian population. Tensions spiked again last October after a spate of shootings and stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians.
There are around 12,000 Christians in Jerusalem, but the city itself is dotted with churches and Christian institutions and Christians mark the places where the dramatic events culminating in the crucifixion occurred some 2,000 years ago. They are, however, made to feel unwelcome and face discrimination, abuse, harassment, and attacks from both Palestinian Muslims and ultra-Orthodox Jews. In the Palestinian territories, most Christians live in the largely Muslim West Bank but their numbers have been declining for decades. They face discrimination and endure difficult economic conditions. Christians also live in Gaza, but a survey published in 2014 indicates that they are also in decline. It recorded a total Christian population of 1,313 down from 1,688 in 1997. Although they are officially tolerated, many Christians experience discrimination and threats from Islamist groups. Life there is difficult and many Christians live in deep poverty. Ever since Hamas came to power in 2007, Christians in Gaza have been barred from visiting holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Living in a majority Muslim context, Muslim converts to Christianity are particularly vulnerable to attack.
Pray for wisdom for Christians throughout the Holy Land to know how to live out their faith and to know how to display their love and kindness to neighbours who persecute them. Pray that the hands of those who plot against the believers will be stayed so that no harm will come to them.