The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East has condemned a “shocking” raid by Israeli soldiers on their church premises in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
In the following statement released later in the day, the actions of the Israeli forces involved in the incident are described as “a violation of international law and an act of terrorism against the entire community”.
The full statement follows:
Early this morning around 3am, Israeli forces carried out an unannounced and unwarranted raid on the premises of St Andrew’s Anglican/Episcopal Church in Ramallah. Making a forced entry, the soldiers ransacked the entrance to the church by breaking the lock and the security glass of the door. For two hours, Israeli soldiers occupied the entire compound, which includes the church sanctuary, parish hall, church offices, presbytery and the Arab Episcopal Medical Center.
The community living inside the church compound did not feel safe during the assault: the sound of gunfire, stun grenades and the banging of doors struck terror among families living inside the compound.
Although there is no justification for this shocking incursion into the church premises, the Israeli forces justified this harsh treatment only later with a raid against Al-Haq, one of the defense groups West Bank’s most important human rights office, to whom St Andrew’s rents an office. with a totally independent entrance from the church.
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, led by Bishop Hosam E Naoum, unequivocally condemns this attack on one of its sacred places of worship, as well as the devastation of church property, as both a violation of international law and a terrorist act against the entire community.
Places of worship and churches should be sanctuaries for communities to feel safe to practice their faith and ministry. Indeed, the UN Human Rights Committee has explained that “the notion of worship extends to…the construction of places of worship” (Human Rights Committee, General Comment 22, Article 18 , para. 4, 1994). The diocese views the offense against the St Andrew’s compound in Ramallah as an assault on its free exercise of religion as an established and officially recognized Christian Church.
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem therefore stands firmly with the Rector of St Andrew’s, Reverend Fadi Diab, and the entire community of St Andrew’s in Ramallah, and with all those afflicted by this irresponsible act of violence. Accordingly, he demands that the Israeli authorities carry out a prompt and impartial investigation into this incident, followed by serious disciplinary measures against the culprits.