The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem recently lamented how Israeli fringe groups are campaigning to drive away the Christian community out of the city. This comes just weeks after some Christian church leaders in Jerusalem called for a special cultural heritage zone for their community in the city.

"Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat," Orthodox Church of Jerusalem patriarch Theophilos III wrote in an op-ed for The Times of London. "Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups. At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly."

Theophilos III reported, "Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes. Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalized. Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation."

The Christian leader believes that the "sworn intent of these radical groups is to extinguish the light of the Christian community from the Old City." He added that these radical groups, who are unaffiliated with the state of Israel or the Jewish people, are seeking to occupy "through illegitimate transactions" two large buildings located at the Jaffa Gate area, which is on the pilgrim route to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The location of the church is where Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Theophilos III warned that Israelis who have lived in the area for generations will "feel unwelcome in their own home" and those who participate in pilgrimages to the holy site "will have their experience diminished" if the two buildings fall into the hands of the radical groups. The Christian leader argued that the radicals who exclude Christians "pose an existential threat" to both Christians and Jerusalem itself.

The Old City, which lies in East Jerusalem, is home to several sacred sites to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israel made claims to East Jerusalem and the Old City, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 after the Six-Day War.

According to the Christian Post, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem raised their concerns about the increasing violence towards Christians in the Holy Land late last year. In a statement, the Christian leaders lamented how since 2012, there had been "countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests" and attacks on Christian churches, vandalism and desecration of holy sites, and intimidation of Christians who want to worship freely.

"These tactics are being used by such radical groups in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land," the Christian church leaders said. They also showed appreciation for the Israeli government's efforts to ensure the safety of Christians, but expressed worry over how some politicians and law enforcement undermine their efforts to curb the terrorist activities of the radical groups.

Rev. Ioan Sauca, who serves as the World Council of Churches' acting general secretary responded to the concerns of the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem and expressed his support for the ongoing plight of Christians in Israel in a statement he had issued. He backed the Christian church leaders' "call for an urgent dialogue" with the leaders of Israel, Palestine and Jordan to address the challenges brought about by the radical groups and ensure the safety of Christians in Jerusalem.