01/18/2016, 17.32
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Cowardly acts against Christians, education against intolerance, says vicar for Jerusalem

Mgr Shomali condemns the desecration of the Basilica of the Dormition. Insulting graffiti and the drawing of a bloody sword cover the building’s doors and walls. After two years, the police has failed to install promised cameras. For the prelate, education is needed to fight extremism.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – "We are upset by this new attack. Police have long promised to put video surveillance cameras on the street, but in two years, they have done nothing. We want security,” said Mgr William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem, the day after another Christian place of worship was attacked in the Holy Land.

Yesterday, vandals wrote anti-Christian slogans (pictured) on the walls and doors of the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary, a Jerusalem church situated outside the walls of the Old City, at Mount Zion, near the Zion Gate. One graffiti read, "May his name be obliterated" (a reference to Jesus' name in Hebrew), next to the drawing of a bloody sword.

The Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem does not hide his sadness for such episodes of sectarian intolerance "50 years after the promulgation of Nostra Aetate," the document issued by the Second Vatican Council that inaugurated the dialogue between Catholics and non-Catholics.

The declaration’s “guidelines have remained on paper, and have not been applied,” the prelate said. “We have to work on several levels, so that they may actually define interfaith relations."

For Mgr Shomali, "anti-Christian intolerance is up, although fortunately so far people have not been hurt. Only walls have been desecrated with insulting graffiti," which is certainly "less serious than killing." However, he warns that they are still “attacks against people, symbolic or not."

"Those who carry out these acts are fearful, coward people who attack at night so as not to be discovered,” the patriarchal vicar said.

“It is not important to know the name of the groups responsible for these acts. The point is the ideology that fuels this violence, the climate of intolerance towards those who are not Jews."

What counts now, Mgr. Shomali noted, is "re-educating people, focusing on school, on education, because only then can we stop extremists and put an end to these acts of intolerance."

The Basilica of the Dormition is a symbol of interfaith dialogue. The attack comes only three weeks after the act of vandalism against the Salesian convent at Beit Jimal.

There too, the messages in Hebrew on the monastery walls and doors were insulting:  "Death to the heathen Christians, the enemies of Israel" and "Christians to Hell".

The church was built on the spot where, according to Christian tradition, Mary spent her last night before "falling asleep". A statue of the Virgin sleeping is located in the crypt.

During his visit in 2014, Pope Francis celebrated mass in the Abbey. Pope Paul VI also visited the abbey during his Holy Land pilgrimage in 1964.

In the recent past, Jewish extremists and settlers have attacked a number of religious sites, including the church near the Upper Room, the Basilica of Nazareth, and other Catholic and Greek Orthodox places of worship in Nazareth and elsewhere. The latest involved a fire at the church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha.

Mosques and Muslim sites have also been the victims of price tag attacks. Price tag is a euphemism Jewish extremists use for the attacks they carry out against Christians and Muslims “for taking their land”.

Once limited to areas bordering the West Bank and Jerusalem, it has now spread across the country.

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