Palestinian Christians ‘terrorized’ by Israeli forces in church raid – Middle East Monitor

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East has condemned a “blatant” raid by Israeli occupation soldiers on its church in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The unexpected and unwarranted raid on the premises of St Andrew’s Anglican/Episcopal Church was carried out by Israeli soldiers in the early hours of Thursday around 3am local time.

The soldiers smashed the door lock and the security glass. For two hours, they occupied the entire complex, which includes the church sanctuary, the parish hall, the church offices, the presbytery and the Arab Episcopal medical center.

A statement from the Episcopal Church said the Christian community living inside the church compound did not feel safe during the raid. “The sound of gunfire, stun grenades and the banging of doors terrorized the families living there,” he said.

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It was later revealed that the target of the raid was the offices of Palestinian NGOs that rent space within the church grounds, including the human rights organization Al-Haq. In October last year, Al-Haq was one of six NGOs designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Israeli government, a decision criticized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Refuting the Israeli claim, the CIA and several European countries concluded that there was no evidence to support such designation of NGOs.

“The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, led by Bishop Hosam E Naoum, unequivocally condemns this attack on one of its sacred places of worship, as well as the devastation of church property, as both a violation of international law and an act of terrorism against the entire community,” the Episcopal Church added. “Houses of worship and churches should be sanctuaries for communities to feel safe in practicing their faith and ministry.” the St Andrew’s complex in Ramallah is an “assault on its free exercise of religion as an established and officially recognized Christian Church“.

In what many see as selective outrage over the plight of Christians in the Middle East, Western governments have remained silent about Israel terrorizing Palestinian Christians while exposing Muslim extremists who have targeted Christian communities. Church leaders have repeatedly warned that Christians are threatened with “extinction” by “radical” Israeli groups.

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Prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948, Palestinian Christians were the second largest religious community in Palestine, comprising over eleven percent of the total population. The waves of ethnic cleansing that the Palestinians call the Nakba (“Catastrophe”) reduced their numbers to their current level of “extinction”.

Israel’s bloody capture, illegal annexation and military occupation of Jerusalem since 1967 has accelerated the flight of Palestinian Christians from their ancestral home. Human rights groups have described Israel’s rule of the territory as a form of apartheid under which Christian Palestinians are equally treated as second- and third-class citizens.

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