In Jerusalem a group called “Islamic State in Palestine” calls on Christians to leave
“We must take threats seriously”
Jerusalem/Montreal, Wednesday July 8, 2015 – Following the distribution of anti-Christian leaflets in Jerusalem, Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate called for people to be vigilant. “In some ways we must take these threats seriously. It would be enough that three young fundamentalists, armed with knives, attack a Christian home to cause panic in the Christian community,” Auxiliary Bishop Shomali told the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Friday.
In leaflets distributed last week in Jerusalem a group calling itself “Islamic State in Palestine” called on Christians to leave the city by the end of the Islamic month of fasting Ramadan on July 18. If they do not comply they are threatened with death.
The Arabic leaflets bear the black flag of the terrorist group “Islamic State”. The threats are reminiscent of an ultimatum set by the “Islamic State” in July 2014 for the Christians in the north Iraqi city of Mosul. Since the rise of “Islamic State” there have also repeatedly been declarations of sympathy for the group in the areas occupied by the Israelis. In addition, in this and the previous year Arab Israelis of the Muslim faith have tried time and again to join the terrorist militia as fighters.
Auxiliary Bishop Shomali explained that the Patriarchate had not itself contacted the Israeli authorities in connection with the leaflets,”… but the Israelis are well informed. Among the Christians in the Holy Land there is anxiety about the leaflets, although only a moderate anxiety,” according to the Auxiliary Bishop, who is responsible in the Patriarchate for Jerusalem and the Palestinian areas. “There are threats. But if we compare our situation with what is happening in neighbouring countries, we still feel much more secure. We are not feeling panic.”
“Former Patriarch Sabbah,” continues Msgr Shomali, “answered to the Isis leaflet that we are not afraid and that we will remain in the Land. His words gave peace to many people.”
The leaflet incident took place shortly after an arson attack, probably committed by Jewish extremists, on the Catholic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha (Israel). The church and monastery were partly severely damaged in the middle of June. Thousands of Arab Christians living in Israel expressed their anger and demonstrated in Tabgha for improved protection of Christian facilities by the Israeli authorities and for greater equality.
In Israel, including East Jerusalem occupied in 1967, about 160,000 Christians are living at present. The majority of these are Arab citizens of Israel. The proportion of Christians in relation to the total population of Israel is about two per cent.