Justin Welby, Israel's Foreign Ministry condemn desecration of Jerusalem Christian cemetery
A Christian grave site in Jerusalem took a hard hit on Sunday after over 30 graves were vandalized with crosses torn off and headstones broken down, drawing condemnation from the Church of England and Isreal's foreign ministry.
More than two dozen graves at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem — some belonging to well-known Christian figures — were vandalized and left shattered, crushed and in ruined shambles. The cemetery is located near Jerusalem's walled Old City.
Security footage from the scene shows two young men wearing kippahs as they attacked the site. Additionally, the men also had knotted fringes called tzitzit on their clothes.
Their wardrobe choices suggest the perpetrators were religious Jews, according to authorities who arrived at the cemetery after the incident to conduct an investigation.
One of the vandalized graves belonged to the second Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Samuel Gobat — a prominent figure who purchased the land before a grave site was later created in 1848.
The Anglican Church contends that the vandalism was "motivated by religious bigotry and hatred against Christians."
"This is only an indication that we are not in a place where people can tolerate each other or accept each other," Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum told BBC. "We see more exclusion, more segregation and that is what really grieves us in this city of Jerusalem."
The British consulate in Jerusalem took to Twitter to express grievances.
"This is the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their property in and around the Old City. The perpetrators of religiously motivated attacks should be held accountable," the tweet reads.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, of the most senior cleric in the Church of England, called the vandalism "a blasphemous act."
"I join the Chief Rabbi and religious leaders in Jerusalem in condemning it and hope those responsible will be brought swiftly to justice," Welby said in a statement. "As we continue to pray for peace in the Holy Land, I stand with Archbishop Hosam Naoum and other Jerusalem church leaders in calling for respect, protection, equality and justice for its Christian community – who are the Living Stones of the church."
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced also condemned the vandalism.
"This immoral act is an affront to religion, and the perpetrators should be prosecuted," it tweeted.
The U.K.'s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis called the vandalism "shameful" and "disgraceful."
"I hope the perpetrators will be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Mirvis said.
According to multiple reports, this isn't the first time the cemetery has been vandalized.
Nine years ago, similar acts of vandalism were perpetrated on the same site.
The grave site is frequented by members of Lutheran and Anglican faith groups. Many graves belong to a variety of prominent figures in the holy city. Those include clergy, military service members, scientists and politicians.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is "appalled" by the vandalism at the grave site.
"A very small number of CWGC headstones were damaged. We are cooperating closely with the authorities on the matter, and our in-country staff are already working to carry out full repairs and return the graves to their normal condition," a spokesperson for CWGC told BBC.
Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.