Arson attack on Tabgha Church
Press Statement 22 June 2015
How long will our places of worship continue to be burnt without accountability and punishment?
Last Thursday, the 18th of June 2015, on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, Jewish extremists set fire to the Church of the Multiplication run by the Benedictine monks in Tabgha. Voices of protest—emerging from the Christian, Muslim, and Druze religious leaders and communities—were raised throughout Palestine condemning the attack. Sabeel-Kairos Palestine joined in expressing these genuine religious and national feelings.
This is not the first incident of its kind. In the past three years, over 43 attacks on churches and mosques have been documented. In all cases, the perpetrators are the same: young Jewish extremists, blinded by religious extremism and encouraged by a religious leadership to hate and exclude. “We are perplexed that neither the government, nor the police have taken any measures to arrest and punish those who did it,” noted His Beatitude, Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, “this is a stark contrast to the oppression Palestinians face on daily basis from Israel’s security establishment”. This principle of double standards is based on ethnic and religious foundations, whereupon a Jew has all rights even if he commits a crime, while a Palestinian is guilty until proven innocent. This discriminatory regime is unacceptable by any standard, especially when used against the indigenous people of the land, a product of its plural and ancient history throughout consecutive generations and centuries.
We warn of the continuation of such incidents that may fan dissent and fire religious conflicts in the Holy Land. This growing extremism and the violence it generates destroys hope for a political and rational solution to the conflict.
We see these crimes as a continuation of the unjust policies and laws used against the Christians, Muslims, and those who have faithfully preserved the religious heritage in the Holy Land for centuries. These incidents remind us with concern that Israel continues to deny regular access to our holy sites and has deprived generations of this right. This is one of the reasons that have led to a systematic dwindling of Christian presence, an important and long presence and witness in the history of this land.
We affirm that the only way to peace in the Holy Land is through respecting the existence, traditions, and places of worship of the three monotheistic religions. Peace depends on respecting basic and elementary human rights of all based on international law, adopting the path of justice and love, and uniting the wills of peoples and governments.
In this context, it is necessary to underline the responsibility of the global community in implementing international law and UN resolutions related to the right of worship. We especially remind the churches of the world of their responsibility to work for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. In order to stop this ailment of blind extremism, we call upon the churches to support and stand in solidarity with the calls and demands of Palestinian Christians as expressed in the document “A Moment of Truth” and all ensuing statements. We ask the churches to adopt policies and action plans that help achieve justice and peace, and we express gratitude to the churches that have already adopted such policies.
We call upon and warn the Israeli authorities that ignoring the escalation of extremism without holding the Jewish terrorists accountable for their deeds is encouraging them to pursue such acts in the future, and by doing so, negating the spirit of the Jewish religion itself. The Israeli authorities are responsible for this kind of terrorism and the absence of security for the religious Christian and Muslim sites.