Islamic extremists set fire to the St. Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem over the weekend, and Christian leaders in Bethlehem—a Palestinian Authority-governed area of the West Bank—have demanded that the Palestinian government do more to prosecute the criminals responsible for the reported arson attack.
Father Gabriel Naddaf, an Arab-Israeli Christian, blamed “Palestinian extremists” for burning down the church.
“I condemn with all my heart the laxness of the Palestinian Authority in protecting Christian holy places it controls. I also hope that all the Christian leaders who demonstrated when the Church of Bread and Fishes near Tiberias was burned down will also demonstrate against this terrible act,” Naddaf wrote on Facebook. Naddaf called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to handle the matter with the same “seriousness and severity” that the Palestinians appear to demonstrate when investigating incidents that occur inside of the State of Israel.
Christian leaders in Bethlehem joined Naddaf in condemning the Palestinian Authority—who blamed the fire on an “electrical malfunction.”
“The [Palestinian Authority] tries to sweep these incidents under the rug but it never condemns these acts, which interfere with freedom of religion,” An unidentified Christian leader told Israel National News.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the Palestinian Authority to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice.
“I am proud that the Christian community in Israel has grown each year. Unfortunately, across the Middle East, that trend happens only in Israel. In many other parts of our region, the Christian community is persecuted and attacked,” Netanyahu said. “Even in the territories of the Palestinian Authority, including Bethlehem, the cradle of Christianity, the Christian community is shrinking every year.”
“I am disturbed by the damage to St. Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem, which was burned last Saturday. If we are speaking about the actions of extremists, I expect the Palestinian Authority to catch those responsible, as Israel has done to extremists who have attacked the holy sites of all,” the Israeli Prime Minister added.