It is nearly impossible to restore or build new churches Christians are frequently ostracized or insulted in public, and laws prohibit Muslim conversions to Christianity Islamic radicals have frequently launched physical attacks on [Christian] Copts. Saudi Arabia "is one of the most oppressive countries for Christians. There are no churches in the whole country. Foreign workers make up one-third of the population, many of whom are Christians.
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For their entire stay, which may be years, they are forbidden to display any Christian symbols or Bibles, or even meet together publicly to worship and pray. Some have watched their personal Bibles put through a shredder when they entered the country. In Iran, "the printing of Christian literature is illegal, converts from Islam are liable to be killed, and most evangelical churches must function underground. A UN report cites cases of imprisonment and torture of Muslims who converted to Christianity and of Armenian and Assyrian pastors, the dissolution of the Iranian Bible Society, the closure of Christian libraries, and the confiscation of all Christian books, including 20, copies of the New Testament in Farsi.
In Israel, too, Muslim fundamentalists seek to assert dominance over Christian Arabs. Islam is the official religion of the Palestinian Authority. Officially, the PA claims to treat Palestinian Christians equally and pointedly seeks to display this publicly. Christmas is an official holiday. Arafat has stated as his mission "the protection of the Christian and Muslim holy places," 19 and several Christians have held prominent PA positions.
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Occasionally, however, contrary messages slip through. In a Friday sermon on October 13, , broadcast live on official Palestinian Authority television from a Gaza mosque, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya proclaimed: "Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them.
In addition, no PA law protects religious freedom. According to Shari'a Law, applicable throughout the Muslim world, any Muslim who [converts] or declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by capital punishment In attempting to assuage Christians, the statement goes on to say that capital punishment for conversion "has never happened, nor is it likely to happen" in the Palestinian territories, but that "norms and tradition will take care of such situations should they occur.
The PA's judicial system also does not ensure equal protection to Christians. For example, an Israeli government report noted the failure of the judicial system in Bethlehem to provide protection to Christian land-owners. The Comtsieh family a Christian family has a plot of land with a building that serves as a business center in the city. Several years ago a Moslem family from Hebron took possession of the building and started to use it without permission. The Comtsieh family filed a claim with the judicial system and after long and arduous court hearings, the court ruled in the claimant's favor.
However, the verdict was never enforced by the police and representatives of the family from Hebron later appeared with a new court verdict signed by the same judge who ruled in the claimants' favor previously , canceling the previous verdict and ratifying the Hebron family's ownership of the property. An Israeli government report in asserted more direct harassment of Christians by the PA. The Palestinian Authority is attempting to cover up the incident and has warned against publicizing the story.
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The local commander of the Palestinian police instructed journalists not to report on the incident He had been regularly attending church and prayer meetings and was distributing Bibles. The Palestinian Authority ordered his arrest The pastor of a church in Ramallah was recently warned by Palestinian Authority security agents that they were monitoring his evangelistic activities in the area and wanted him to come in for questioning for spreading Christianity.
A Palestinian convert to Christianity living in a village near Nablus was recently arrested by the Palestinian police.
A Muslim preacher was brought in by the police, and he attempted to convince the convert to return to Islam. When the convert refused, he was brought before a Palestinian court and sentenced to prison for insulting the religious leader A Palestinian convert to Christianity in Ramallah was recently visited by Palestinian policemen at his home and warned that if he continued to preach Christianity, he would be arrested and charged with being an Israeli spy.
Another report in , based on Israeli intelligence gathered during Israel's Defensive Shield operation, asserts that "The Fatah and Arafat's intelligence network intimidated and maltreated the Christian population in Bethlehem.
They extorted money from them, confiscated land and property and left them to the mercy of street gangs and other criminal activity, with no protection. Residents of this biblical city are expressing relief at the exile to Cyprus last week of 13 hard-core Palestinian militants, who they said had imposed a two-year reign of terror that included rape, extortion and executions. The 13 sent to Cyprus, as well as 26 others sent to the Gaza Strip, had taken shelter in the Church of the Nativity, triggering a day siege that ended Friday.
Palestinians who live near the church described the group as a criminal gang that preyed especially on Palestinian Christians, demanding "protection money" from the main businesses, which make and sell religious artifacts. Adding insult to injury, during this reign of terror, the PA's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades declared a terrorist organization by the United States sent a letter to the Bethlehem municipality "requesting" aid in the form of monetary contributions for military operations. The PA has shown contempt for certain Christian holy sites, and there has been significant desecration as well.
For example, without prior consent of the church, Yasser Arafat decided to turn the Greek Orthodox monastery near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem into his domicile during his visits to the city. After the outbreak of Palestinian violence in September , the PA's Tanzim militia chose the Christian town of Beit Jala to shoot at Jerusalem over other locations from which they could have similarly targeted communities built on land captured in They specifically positioned themselves in or near Christian homes, hotels, churches e.
Nicholas , and the Greek Orthodox club, knowing that a slight deviation in Israeli return fire would harm Christian institutions or homes.
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I would like to draw your attention in this letter to a number of incidents which occurred at "Talitakoumi" school in Beit Jala Over the last few days the school staff noticed attempts on the part of several armed Palestinians to use the school premises and some of its gardens for their activities. If they succeed in doing this, an Israeli reaction will be inevitable.
This will have a negative impact on the continuation of the functioning of the school, in which no less than 1, [Christian] Palestinians study You cannot imagine the kind of upheaval which will be provoked among the supporters of this school [in Germany] should they discover that the school premises are used as a battle ground. The most glaring example of PA disregard for the holiness of Christian shrines, however, was the April takeover of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem by PA forces and their taking over 40 Christian clergy and nuns as hostages.
As confirmed by a senior Tanzim commander, Abdullah Abu-Hadid, "The idea was to enter the church in order to create international pressure on Israel We knew beforehand that there was two years' worth of food for 50 monks.
Oil, beans, rice, olives. Good bathrooms and the largest wells in old Bethlehem. You didn't need electricity because there were candles. In the yard they planted vegetables. Everything was there. On April 2, , as Israel implemented its Defensive Shield operation to combat the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, in Bethlehem "a number of terrorists took over St. Mary's Church grounds and The terrorists used the Church as a firing position, from which they shot at IDF soldiers in the area.
The soldiers did not return fire toward the church when fired upon [emphasis added]. An IDF force, under the command of the Bethlehem area regional commander, entered the Church grounds today without battle, in coordination with its leaders, and evacuated the priest and nuns. That same day, "More than Palestinian gunmen As the New York Times put it, "Palestinian gunmen have frequently used the area around the church as a refuge, with the expectation that Israel would try to avoid fighting near the shrine " [emphasis added].
And in fact this was the case. The commander of the Israeli forces in the area asserted that the IDF would not break into the church itself and would not harm this site holy to Christianity. Israel also deployed more mature and more reserved reserve-duty soldiers in this sensitive situation that militarily called for more agile, standing-army soldiers. On the other hand, the Palestinians did not treat it the same way. Not only did they take their weapons with them into the Church of the Nativity and fire, on occasion, from the church, but also reportedly booby-trapped the entrance to the church.
On April 7, "one of the few priests evacuated from the church told Israeli television yesterday that gunmen had shot their way in, and that the priests, monks and nuns were essentially hostages The priest declined to call the clergy 'hostages,' but repeatedly said in fluent English: 'We have absolutely no choice. They have guns, we do not.
Christians clearly saw the takeover as a violation of the sanctity of the church. In an interview with CWNews, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's Undersecretary of State and the top foreign-policy official, asserted that "The Palestinians have entered into bilateral agreements [with the Holy See] in which they undertake to maintain and respect the status quo regarding the Christian holy places and the rights of Christian communities.
To explain the gravity of the current situation, let me begin with the fact that the occupation of the holy places by armed men is a violation of a long tradition of law that dates back to the Ottoman era. Never before have they been occupied - for such a lengthy time - by armed men. Three Armenian monks, who had been held hostage by the Palestinian gunmen inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, managed to flee the church area via a side gate yesterday morning. They immediately thanked the soldiers for rescuing them. They told army officers the gunmen had stolen gold and other property, including crucifixes and prayer books, and had caused damage One of the monks, Narkiss Korasian, later told reporters: "They stole everything, they opened the doors one by one and stole everything They stole our prayer books and four crosses Thank you for your help, we will never forget it.
When the siege finally ended, the PA soldiers left the church in terrible condition:.
The Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity seized church stockpiles of food and "ate like greedy monsters" until the food ran out, while more than civilians went hungry. They also guzzled beer, wine, and Johnnie Walker scotch that they found in priests' quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol.
The indulgence lasted for about two weeks into the day siege, when the food and drink ran out, according to an account by four Greek Orthodox priests who were trapped inside for the entire ordeal The Orthodox priests and a number of civilians have said the gunmen created a regime of fear. Even in the Roman Catholic areas of the complex there was evidence of disregard for religious norms. Catholic priests said that some Bibles were torn up for toilet paper, and many valuable sacramental objects were removed.
Nicholas Marquez from Mexico. A problem that arose during the siege again shows Christian fear of Muslim domination.
Islamic Jerusalem and its Christians. A History of Tolerance and Tensions
Two Palestinian gunmen in the church were killed, and the PA wanted to bury them in the basilica. It could lead to a situation like that in Nazareth," he said. Despite having no legal standing in Jerusalem, PA officialdom has acted similarly there. Walid M. There are scholars who say that it might be in Jericho or somewhere else 4 kilometers outside of Jerusalem. Are you suggesting that Jesus went to Jericho rather than Jerusalem?