For Fr Shomali, the 'hate virus' is behind church attacks in Jerusalem

Yesterday, someone set fire to the entrance of the Romanian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem. The quick action of a priest prevented serious damage. This is the fourth such incidents in a month, caught on camera, but the police have so far failed to act. The chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate calls for a stop to the spiral of violence and better security measures to protect the Christian community.

 


Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, someone set fire to the entrance to the Monastery of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The building is located near the Jewish Orthodox Quarter, from where the perpetrator(s) of the act of vandalism may have come, the fourth in less than a month against the same site.

“Although it has not caused any injuries or serious damage, this is the fourth time in recent weeks that such an attack has been carried out and the target is always the church itself. The problem is that, so far, the authorities have done nothing to stop them,” said Fr Ibrahim Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, speaking to AsiaNews.

Fortunately, the fire was put out within minutes before it could cause serious damage. “According to some information, the surveillance cameras have repeatedly framed the faces of the attackers and their faces are known.”

However, law enforcement and the authorities “have done nothing to stop them. We call on the police to take all security measures to protect the Christian community and our places of worship,” Fr Shomali said.

The speed with which a priest intervened to douse the flames avoided serious damage and prevented people inside from being affected.

Local sources report that the authorities are investigating a group of Orthodox Jews, who have previously carried out similar attacks, although so far there have been no formal indictments.

The attack against the Orthodox monastery is the latest in a long series of intimidatory incidents, some of them with a “price tag” blamed on Jewish settlers or extremists who have hit several targets in the past, including the church near the Upper Room, the Basilica of Nazareth, and other Catholic and Greek Orthodox buildings, as well as mosques and Muslims places of worship.

The “price to pay” is a slogan used by Israeli extremists, who threaten Christians and Muslims for “taking away their land”. This kind of behaviour was once limited to areas bordering the West Bank and Jerusalem, but now it has spread to much of the territory.

“Strongly” condemning the new episode of violence, the leaders of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land have expressed their solidarity to the Orthodox Churches and all Christian communities in Jerusalem.

Such acts, they write in a statement, “offend not only the life of Christians but also those who still believe in dialogue and mutual respect. Such acts are contrary to the spirit of peaceful coexistence among the different religious communities in the city.”

In addition to calling on “All civil and religious authorities of the City” to “unite in condemning these acts,” Christian leaders want to see the “authorities investigate these incidents seriously and bring assailants to justice” as well as make an effort to educate people about “tolerance and respect”.

The four attacks over a short time against the Orthodox monastery come on top of the attack against the Basilica of Gethsemane in December and other episodes that are signs of an escalation of confessional violence.

“No more attacks,” Fr Shomali said. “We want to live in peace. The cameras captured the faces, and the authorities have a duty to act. Such hatred is increasing, and we as a Church are doing everything to live together, respecting others, praying that God will change the minds of fanatics. At the same time, the government must also become aware of the problem, promoting an education based on peace and coexistence.”

Addressing the attackers, the clergyman urges them to “put an end to this culture of hatred, which is growing everywhere in the world. We are one people; we are all brothers; and as we fight together against the COVID-19 pandemic so we must be united against the hate virus.”

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