Christians in Jerusalem and Bethlehem are thankful for the reconciliatory response to a recent incident involving a Franciscan priest in Bethlehem, but are concerned that a minor incident has become exaggerated and politicized.
On Friday 1 June, Father Fadi Shallufi was ministering at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, when there was an altercation involving some foreign visitors and two Palestinians. In anger, one of the Palestinians assaulted Father Fadi through the bars of the gate to the grotto. From security camera footage, it appeared that Father Fadi had been stabbed with a knife and reports circulated that he had been seriously wounded (even killed), but in fact it is believed that the assailant held a key, which he prodded in Father Fadi’s chest. Father Fadi was uninjured.
On 3 June, the Palestinian Authorities organised a reconciliation meeting (reconciliation meetings are a common way of solving minor disputes in the Middle East) between the family of the assailant and the Custody of the Holy Land, a Franciscan order of the Catholic Church that has maintained many churches, schools and other entities in the Middle East since the Mediaeval period. The meeting was attended by the Minister of Tourism, the mayor of Bethlehem, leaders of the Muslim community, Father Fadi, the Custos of the Holy Land and other representatives from the Custody. The family of the assailant expressed their deep and sincere apologies, which were graciously received by Father Fadi and the representatives of the Custody.
Friends of Father Fadi are thankful for the sensitivity shown by the Palestinian Authorities, that the incident itself was minor and can be considered closed, but request prayer that:
- There will be peaceful interaction between Christians and Muslims, especially during the month of Ramadan
- This minor incident will cease to be exaggerated or used as a political tool