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Assailants Were Harassing Christian Pilgrims Attempting To Enter Church

06/04/18 International Christian Concern (Washington, DC) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on June 1, 2018, a Franciscan friar was stabbed after protecting pilgrim women from two men harassing them as they attempted to enter church. Video footage of the incident shows that Father Fadi Shallufi was stabbed through a closed gate after he attempted to calm the situation.

According to an incident report obtained by al-Arab Newservice, “police indicated that they ‘started the investigation after receiving a complaint from a Christian cleric from the north about the harassment of young worshipers near a church in Bethlehem, and asked young worshipers to maintain calm in the place.” 

Fides shared a statement by the spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land which says that “two young men were disturbing a group of pilgrims heading towards the Milk Grotto Church, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity. In the face of this behavior, Father Fadi limited himself to allowing the pilgrims to quickly enter the church, and then closed the gate and thus prevented access to the two attackers.”

Father Fadi was stabbed shortly after closing the gate. Bishop Atallah Hannah published a statement saying that “We thank God that the injury was minor, but this action is a criminal act that is far from our human, moral and national values. We reject attacks against clerics.”

The Jerusalem Post adds, “According to a source within the church, assaults on clergy are very rare. But this incident, he said, had crossed a redline. He couldn’t think of more than two serious incidents in the last several decades, however, he did acknowledge that during times of political crises or on religious holidays there can be harassment and tension.”

The attack on Father Fadi corresponds with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to end mid-June. Arab48 news reports that the two assailants have taken responsibility for the crime but police have not released any additional details.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The assault on Father Fadi and the harassment of Christians attending his church is deeply worrying. While we are grateful that no one was seriously injured during this incident, the reality is that Middle Eastern Christians constantly live in fear of such attacks. Sadly, the escalation of intimidation, harassment, and violence towards Christians is an all too common occurrence during Ramadan.”

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, ICC Communications Coordinator: [email protected].