Palestinian Christians attend a service on Easter Sunday, April 1, at the Saint Porfirios Church in Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Christian leaders in the West Bank called on the Palestinian Authority to launch an investigation into two recent attacks on churches near Ramallah and Bethlehem.
On May 16, assailants broke into the Church of God in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah, the Holy Land Church organization said in a statement.
The perpetrators stole some of the contents of the church, it said, without providing further details.
“We pray in solidarity with this church and for the repentance of the aggressors,” the organization said in its statement. “We also call on the responsible authorities to lay their hands on the perpetrators and bring them to justice as soon as possible.”
Photos released by the organization showed damaged furniture and smashed windows inside the Church of God.
Pastor Abdallah Khoury said he was in touch with the PA authorities concerning the break-in and sabotage. He called on the PA to take the necessary measures to bring the criminals to court. “The attack on the church and the stealing of its contents is very dangerous,” he said. “This matter needs to be taken seriously.”
The bulk of the village is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civilian control.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said there was damage caused to a number of vehicles in the village and an investigation is taking place into the incident.
On May 14, Christians reported that a similar incident took place at Saint Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem.
The Holy Land Council of Bishops condemned what it called the “robbery” of the monastery, which is affiliated with the Lebanese Maronite Order, in downtown Bethlehem.
The council said that the perpetrators cut the fence surrounding the monastery and stole some of its contents, including expensive equipment and surveillance cameras.
“We condemn the attack on the monastery and call on the Palestinian authorities, especially their security services, to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible, and take measures to protect the monastery from similar attacks in the future,” the council said.
It also noted that this was the sixth time that this monastery has been subjected to sabotage and robbery over the past few years.
In 2015, a fire erupted in the monastery, causing extensive damage. The PA security forces said the fire was caused by an “electrical fault.” However, some Christian activists claimed that the fire was an “arson attack” by radical Muslims.
A senior PA security official said that an investigation has been launched into the “robberies” in Aboud and Bethlehem. According to the spokesman, investigations have so far indicated that there is no connection between the two cases.
Some Christians, however, expressed concern that the PA security forces are not doing enough to protect Christian holy sites in the West Bank.
“We feel we’re being deliberately targeted because we’re Christians,” a Christian woman from Aboud told The Jerusalem Post. “When you see two attacks on a church and monastery in one week, this makes you wonder whether there’s some kind of a scheme against Christians.”
Wadie Abunassar, a prominent Christian figure from Haifa and director of The International Center for Consultations, a consulting agency that offers political, economic and media consultancy on the Middle East, said that he contacted senior PA officials and urged them to quickly investigate the attacks.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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