Muslim extremists, so the popular international news media narrative goes, are the greatest threat to Christian communities throughout the Middle East. There can be no denying that it is true that Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq, as a consequence of Western military intervention, have attacked Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in various places. Innocent people have been hunted down and murdered, churches and other places of religious significance have been destroyed, and graveyards and memorials have been desecrated, but few media outlets are telling the full truth. Israel too is a place where Christians are facing increasing harassment – from Jewish religious extremists. Over the past fifty years Christians in both Israel and Palestine have been subject to discrimination and often violence, but the Western media has all but ignored the plight of Christians suffering at the hands of Jewish Israeli extremists because Israel, as a strategic ally of the United States, has to be presented as a friendly and stable democratic state. While most Israelis, in all fairness, are outraged by this behaviour Israel’s occupation of Palestine and discriminatory laws within Israel have been the greatest threat to Christians in the region.

Last week the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, one of the oldest Christian places of worship in Israel, was attacked, desecrated, and set alight by Jewish settlers. By no means was this an isolated incident. In April last year the church was ransacked, and, like last week, racist and anti-Christian graffiti was spray-painted over the walls of the building. Churches and other Christian sites throughout the State of Israel are routinely targeted and desecrated by these extremists and this has been the case since the establishment of the state – only we are never told about it. Religious extremism happens. Attacks are perpetrated by Christians as well as by Jews and Muslims. There are extreme elements within every religion, and nothing is served by attempting to deny this sad reality and obscure the truth by scapegoating one particular religious group for a political agenda. Peace is not about putting down weapons and tins of spray-paint. This is nothing more than a truce. Peace will only become a reality when we are prepared to reach beyond ourselves, and, by working together, create genuine respect and understanding between people.

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