In his long letter of May 21, William Gowen castigated Islamic countries and China for persecuting Christians. His letter however is full of praise of "Israel, the Jewish state," describing it as "far more respectful of Christianity and of the religious freedom of Christians including Arab Christians." How can such a statement be reconciled with the statements issued by Church leaders here and in the Holy Land?
Israel is practicing a subtle form of persecution whose goal is to reduce the number of non-Jews, especially in Jerusalem. The dwindling number of Christians in Jerusalem caused so much alarm that Cardinal Keeler, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops sent in 1995 a joint letter with other US Christian leaders to President Clinton. It partly reads: "In contravention of international law, more and more land is taken out of Palestinian hands and place under Israeli control by annexation, expropriation, and private purchases, often coercive or of questionable legality."
As far as the Heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem are concerned,
they issued statements in 1992, 1994 and 1996 to express their concern
over several grave incidents such as the seizure of houses in Silwan and
the breaking into St. John's Hospice. They also condemned "any attempt
to modify the demographic and unique character and status of Jerusalem"
and urged the Israeli government to abstain from the confiscation of land
and the demolition of homes. They finally warned that Israelis are "deliberately
changing the status of the city, discriminating against non-Jewish populations...
and physically enforcing exclusivist control over Jerusalem in the interests
of Jews only, to the detriment of others."
May 25, 1998]