Public Statement on Christian Presence and Life in the Holy Land

The Thirteenth Assembly of the LWF is deeply concerned by the continuing violence, hatred and loss of lives in the Holy Land. 2023 is already one of the most violent and deadly years in the last two decades on the West Bank, fueled by extremist policies violating human rights and human dignity for all affected. According to the United Nations, there have been over 200 Palestinian and nearly 30 Israeli fatalities in the West Bank and Israel thus far this year, already surpassing 2022 annual figures, and the highest figure since 2005.

The situation for Christians in the Holy Land has significantly deteriorated over the past years. There has been an increase in anti-Christian attacks by Jewish extremists and militant groups, including harassment of clergy and vandalizing of church property. Access to holy sites have repeatedly been restricted for both Christian and Muslim Palestinians.  

As the Government of Israel continues to support the expansion of settlements which are illegal under international law, an ever-increasing number in the Palestinian community see their houses demolished, and their access to land, housing, employment, and basic services such as health and education restricted or denied. The LWF Assembly condemns such actions and would like to recall the Statement on Peace and Justice from the LWF 1984 Assembly in Budapest, Hungary.  The policies and actions of the recent Israeli governments have diminished the possibility of a Palestinian state. An increasing number of human rights organizations and some of Israel’s own politicians and former heads of internal security have described the reality of the situation today. This should be a matter of concern to all of us.

The Church leaders in Jerusalem have been appealing to their sister churches and to the international community for solidarity and support. There is a growing fear that the already diminished Christian presence could disappear altogether from the Holy Land.

The LWF Assembly stands in solidarity with its Member Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and affirms its ministry and witness in these challenging times. Further, the LWF Assembly expresses solidarity with other Christians, people of other faiths and Palestinians who are affected by the escalation of violence, occupation, and lack of access to holy sites. The LWF realizes that there are churches that are complicit in the injustice that the Palestinians and Palestinian Christians suffer, through colonial theologies of superiority and power.

The LWF Assembly also affirms its commitment to the LWF-owned and operated Augusta Victoria Hospital as a sign of its commitment to the Palestinian community and a symbol of hope in these extremely troubled times.

That the LWF Assembly calls on:

  1. The international community and the Government of Israel to respect and ensure the access to Holy Sites for believers of all three religions.  
  2. The Government of Israel to end its occupation and settlement expansion activities and immediately ensure equal rights for all. 
  3. The international community to urgently address the Israel/Palestine situation, given the recent and ongoing escalation of violence and occupation, hold the State of Israel accountable for their violations of human rights and the international law, and find a lasting solution which would end of the half-century-long illegal occupation of Palestinian Territories and ensure peace, justice and equal rights for all.
  4. The LWF member churches to examine, discuss, discern and respond to the implications of the recent reports by international human rights organizations, which describe the discrimination against Palestinians living under occupation or as citizens of Israel, as overt and systemic, and find that the occupation continues to ignore the equal human dignity and human rights of Palestinians living under this system of control.