Holy Land Bishops urge Christian-Muslim unity

All suffer at hands of extremists, prelates state

“Christians and Muslims need to stand together against the new forces of extremism and destruction.” This is the core message contained in a joint statement issued April 3 by the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land.

Fearing potential disunity among communities from the current highlighting of Christian persecution amid conflicts in the Arab world, the prelates appeal for a recognition that, while such persecution is real and undeniable for Christians at the hands of extremists, other communities and individuals are suffering in the wake of the Arab spring.

“In the name of truth,” the bishops write, “we must point out that Christians are not the only victims of this violence and savagery. Secular Muslims, all those defined as ‘heretic,’ ‘schismatic’ or simply ‘non-conformist’ are being attacked and murdered in the prevailing chaos.

In areas where Sunni extremists dominate, Shiites are being slaughtered. In areas where Shiite extremists dominate, Sunnis are being killed.”

Dismissing notions that the international community or local leaders will act definitively to end strife in the Arab world, the prelates’ statement adds:  “Christians and Muslims need to stand together against the new forces of extremism and destruction. The outside world will not make any real move to protect us. International and local political powers seek their own interests.

“We, alone, can build a common future together.”

Meanwhile, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem has condemned as “madness” a graffiti attack, apparently by Jewish extremists, on a Catholic shrine near the city.

Following his visit to the Deir Rafat Monastery and Marian shrine, where he viewed the graffiti, carried out in conjunction with vandalism to cars parked there, Patriarch Twal said he would pray for those with “narrowness of mind” but insisted “we will do everything to ensure that justice is done and that these vandals and fanatics are prosecuted”.

The extremist group Price Tag has been blamed for the attack, given that the graffiti content attacked America and moves on Israel-Palestinian peace talks.