Christians Suspect Islamic State Influencing Muslims in Palestinian Territories, Israel

ICC Note: With the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, Christians in Israel and Palestinian territories worry about radicalism. Anti-Christian hostility in the nation has always existed to some extent, but in recent months it has escalated to uncomfortable levels. The problem seems less prevalent on individual levels and more in group dynamics.

06-11-2015 Turkey (Morning Star News)  After months of Islamic State (IS) committing horrific violence in the Middle East and North Africa, Palestinian Christians say a large number of Muslims in the Palestinian Territories and Israel have become “radicalized” and are much more aggressive toward them.

Anti-Christian hostility boiling under the surface for years has come into plain view in the past few months in the form of physical attacks, incendiary religious speeches and inflammatory billboards, they said.

Palestinian Christian leaders said not all Muslims in the Territories and Israel have become extremists, and elders within the Muslim community are trying to dampen the effects of extremist ideology, but enough Palestinians have become radicalized that many Christians feel unsafe or, at minimum, openly unwanted. Whereas tensions between Christians and Muslims previously were seen as issues between individuals, there is now a definite “us vs. them” mentality from Islamic extremists, Christian leaders said.

“Since I was a child this has been happening in the Christian Quarter and in the Muslim Quarter [in Jerusalem’s historic Old City area], but not in this way,” said Rami Fellemon, a Palestinian Christian and director of Jerusalem Evangelistic Outreach, headquartered in East Jerusalem. “Many people are sitting here, and in their own mind they are thinking, ‘What the heck are we doing here in this country? Let’s leave the country.’ Others have resentment toward Muslims now. They don’t understand why they are doing this in such a way.”

Nashat Filmon, general director of the Palestinian branch of The Bible Society, said recent hostilities in Jerusalem could be the related to IS.

“The dark ideology of ISIS is spreading all over the region like cancer,” he said. “This is also including the Holy Land. Christians, overall, live here in peace and harmony with Muslims in Jerusalem and the West Bank, but incidents do happen from time to time, and it’s true that these incidents have recently increased, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.”

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