Holy Land Christians raise voices against ‘Islamic mafia’

.- An “Islamic fundamentalist mafia” has been committing acts of violence and intimidation against Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, says a document recently submitted by Holy Land Christians to Church leaders in Jerusalem.

Journalist Harry de Quetteville reported Sept. 9 that the document lists 93 alleged incidents of abuse by the mafia and 140 cases in which gangs, backed by corrupt judicial officials, allegedly forced Christians in the West Bank off their land.

One case from 2003 includes the torture and murder of two Christian girls who were deemed prostitutes. An autopsy found that they were virgins.

“The Christian community has always suffered in the last few years because we are a minority,” commented Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Jerusalem's senior Franciscan, “Because of this many Christians seek to leave and the Christian presence in the Holy Land is shrinking.”

Christians currently form about two per cent of the population of the Holy Land. 60 years ago they formed 20 percent.

The confrontation is not with the entire Muslim community, Fr. Pizzaballa clarified, yet Christians have to raise their voices against violations of the law.

Reportedly, attacks on Christians have occurred despite repeated appeals to the Palestinian Authority. The document goes on to accuse the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to rein in the situation.

A spokesman for the Apostolic Delegate, the Pope's envoy to Jerusalem, confirmed the lack of action on the part of the Palestinian Authority regarding this problem.

"The Apostolic Delegate presented a list of all the problems to Mr. [Yasser] Arafat before he died," he told de Quetteville. "He promised a lot but he did very little."

Samir Qumsieh told de Quetteville that Christian appeals to Arafat's successor as Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, have also gone unanswered.

Qumsieh works at the Christian television station in Bethlehem, but has also been working to repair relations between Palestinian Christians and Muslims through dialogue.

According to Qumsieh, Islamic fundamentalists and the organized criminal establishment are working together.

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