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Over the past weekend, many friends expressed concern and condemnation over the detention of Palestinian Archbishop Theodosios Attallah Hanna. His Eminence is fully aware of the risks incurred as he continues to resist the occupation and aggression of his people, but insists on living his Kairos calling
The Archbishop was on his way to a sit-in protesting the seizure of the site of the Al-Baraka ("House of blessing" in Arabic). Al-Baraka is a Presbyterian church and hospital that was taken over by colonial settlers to establish yet another new illegal settlement in the rural area south of Bethlehem. The church property seems to have been purchased by a Jewish billionaire with the assistance of an Israeli settler as disclosed by the Haaretz newspaper. It is alleged that the sale was made by employing a variety of shell corporations and charitable organizations to cover up the acquisition of the church property.
The site of this new settlement has been a source of underground water throughout history and boasts very fertile land and agricultural traditions as practiced for centuries by surrounding Palestinian villages. No wonder it is an important target of Israeli settlement policies.
As his eminence was approaching the site of the Al-Baraka church with his car and driver, he was stopped by army patrols. Surrounded by soldiers, he was questioned and harassed. Soon after, he was lead away from the buzz of the main street to a far off deserted area where he was further questioned and detained for a couple of hours.
The archbishop never made it to the non-violent protest at the site of Al-Baraka church where an international delegation from the Presbyterian church and other activists—Christian,Jewish, and Muslims—held their sit-in against the plan for an illegal new settlement. This settlement, like all others in the occupied territories, is illegal under international law and is considered a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions. In addition the alleged sale of the church property is illegal under canonical law and the laws that govern the Palestinian Occupied Territories. As always, these illegal actions continue to be sanctioned, supported and encouraged by the Israeli government.
The case of the seizure of the Al-Baraka church by settlers is an eye sore to Palestinians in general but more specifically to Palestinian Christians. Such acts by church organizations, even when cheated into selling their property, do great harm to Christian Palestinians. They give a faulty impression, magnified by Israeli media and intelligence maneuvers, that Christians are associated in passing on property to Israeli settlers. Over generations, these divide and rule policies seek to weaken the coherence and resolve of Palestinian society especially in their struggle for freedom and dignity from the occupation.
The Archbishop, among other dedicated prophetic church leaders and clergy who contributed to the Kairos Document ('a Moment of Truth') is a symbol of non-violent struggle against the prolonged occupation, dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. They travel Palestinian cities, villages and the rest of the world in solidarity with their oppressed people and against injustice. They are an important symbol of Muslim Christian Palestinian brotherhood, and the longstanding diversity and pluralism of Palestinian society.