Catholics Ask Israeli Government for Protection Amid Hate Crime Attacks

The Roman Catholic Church has made a formal request for Israeli President Shimon Peres to get involved and help put a stop to the vandalism of Christian places of worship that has been taking place in Israel over the past several weeks.

The Catholic Church's custodian of holy places in Israel, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, sent a letter to President Peres just yesterday asking the leader for his aid. In the letter, Pizzaballa wrote "red lines that must not be crossed have been crossed" and asked Peres to step in and help put an end to "this dangerous phenomenon."

Nearly a week ago, a Baptist church in the center of Jerusalem was vandalized. Israel Today reports that graffiti reading "Death to Christianity," "Jesus was a son of a whore," and "We will crucify you," was spray painted on the outside of the church. Cars parked nearby had their tires slashed. Also spray painted on the church were the words "Price Tag" which refers to a radical group that has been attacking churches and mosques in recent weeks. Similar graffiti was seen on the walls of a Greek Orthodox Church within the city.

Price Tag is the name of a group of militant Jewish extremists who are mostly known for committing violence toward Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. The New York Times describes Price Tag as a group that wishes to "exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for any action taken against their settlement enterprise."

Many Israelis, including those prominent in the Jewish faith, have reached out to the pastors and congregations affected by these hateful acts of vandalism. Chuck Kopp, pastor of the vandalized Baptist church, told Israel Today, "The rabbi and cantor from the synagogue across the street came the same day [as the vandalism] with a huge bouquet of flowers and a note of solidarity and friendship."

Kopp also spoke of support he is finding within the community. He said, "Another Israeli lady came in with flowers and when I asked if she was also a neighbor, she said no, she was just a concerned Israeli citizen."

No arrests have been made yet, however The Washington Post reports that President Peres' top administrators have begun communicating with Pizzaballa in an effort to help stop the attacks against Christians. Also, Peres' office told the Post that the president was taking Pizzaballa's letter "very seriously."

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