(CP) Christian leaders have condemned an attack on a church near Bethlehem by a group of Muslim men, with calls being made for the Palestinian Authority to take swift action.
A group of Muslims attacked an Orthodox church in Beit Sahur, a predominantly Christian neighborhood near Bethlehem, throwing stones and injuring several people.
Christian Israeli rights activist and Knesset candidate Shadi khalloul posted a short video of the attack on Twitter, asking, "Have you seen in your life a Christian in the Arab world attacking a mosque in Christian towns, and why not?"
Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem released a statement denouncing the assault, describing the attack as an "unprecedented phenomenon."
"What happened on Friday night in Beit Sahur distorts the image of our people and harms civil peace and the good relationship that binds us as the sons of the Palestinian people," Hanna stated, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
"The church is not a place for settling accounts, fomenting sedition and undermining the unity of our people. What happened in Beit Sahur was horrific."
Wadie Abunassar of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, took to his Facebook account to condemn last week's attack, saying he was "sad and angry to watch what happened."
"I demand the Palestinian Authority not to be tolerant of the aggressors, but to bring them to justice as soon as possible! Pray this morning for the Palestinian people to be free from the tyranny and occupation alike," said Abunassar, who added it was "heartwarming" to also see "the solidarity of the majority of the city's people, with all its religious and family components" supporting the church.
According to Open Doors USA, a U.S.-based Christian persecution watchdog group, Palestinian Christians often find themselves at odds with both Israeli authorities and the Muslim-majority Palestinian Territories.
"Palestinian Christians face ethnic persecution from Israelis as a result of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Their ethnicity results in many restrictions from the Israeli side," stated Open Doors. "Palestinian society is conservative, and conversion from Islam to Christianity or changing from one church denomination to another is unacceptable or socially undesirable because of the close links between family and religion. Laws in the West Bank generally protect religious freedom, whereas those in Gaza are restrictive."