Israeli President “Proud” that Israel is the One Place in Middle East Where the Christian Community Is Growing

June 5, 2019

by: Joshua Spurlock

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President Rivlin meets with Christian leaders in the Franciscan Church in the Old City.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019 | Israel is home to three major world religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is not only glad to see Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion, but also the status of the Christian community in the Jewish state. “These are difficult and painful times for Christians in the Middle East. I am proud that Israel is the only country in our region where the Christian community is not shrinking, but in fact is growing,” said Rivlin on Monday in comments published by Israel.

Rivlin was speaking to leaders of the Christian community in honor of Ascension Day—the day the Catholic Church marks the ascension of Jesus into heaven as recounted in the biblical book of Acts.

“The State of Israel, as guardian of this city, is deeply committed to the religious rights of worship and activity of all communities of faith in Jerusalem and Israel,” said Rivlin. “Christians, Muslims and Jews will always be free to worship here. Israeli sovereignty will never compromise religious freedom.”

The Israeli approach to that freedom contrasts severely with that of their archenemy, Iran. Just last month, a United States official strongly critiqued Iran’s human rights abuses around religious freedom. US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback was quoted by the State Department website as saying that “in Iran, blasphemy, apostasy from Islam and proselytizing of Muslims are crimes punishable by death.”

Brownback noted the persecution facing Christians, including over accusations of preaching what Iranians were calling “Zionist Christianity.” The term “Zionist” is a term Iranian officials use to describe the official entity of the State of Israel.

Brownback said of Christians in general in Iran, that heading into Christmas last year, Iranian security services “conducted raids on house churches throughout the country, detaining congregants for hours or days and interrogating them about their Christian faith.”

In contrast, on Monday, Rivlin was joined by Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, who thanked the Israeli president for the visit.

In the Israeli press release, Patton noted the dark side of religion in world events as well—citing the attacks on Jews in the US, Muslims in New Zealand and Christians in Sri Lanka.

“Unfortunately, even recently, we have seen violence exploding in an inhuman and brutal way against faithful who were praying,” Patton was quoted as saying.

“…As religious leaders, we refuse, condemn and deplore all kinds of exploitation of religion, and especially the religious justification of acts of violence. When Pope John Paul II came to Jerusalem in March 2000, he reminded us that the role of religious leaders is, above all, that of ‘promoting peace and reciprocal understanding.’”

Posted on June 5, 2019

Source: (This article was originally published by the Mideast Update on June 4, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: GPO