World churches body blasts attacks on West Bank mosque and Jerusalem Christian center

(Photo: REUTERS / Ammar Awad)Palestinian Imam Ibrahim Abu Luha looks out a mosque window that was set alight in an overnight attack in Al-Jaba'ah village near the West Bank city of Bethlehem February 25, 2015. A Palestinian mosque was set alight in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and graffiti in Hebrew at the scene suggested the attack was carried out by a far-right Israeli group, officials said. Israeli police said they were investigating the attack.

The World Council of Churches has denounced recent attacks against a mosque in the West Bank and on a Christian center in Jerusalem that appeared part of the series of so-called "price-tag" attacks by extremist elements.

A Feb. 27 WCC statement cited media reports that a group of Jewish settlers stormed Al-Jaba'a village, near Bethlehem, and set fire to the Al-Huda Mosque, leaving anti-Arab slogans on its walls.

The following day, in another apparent arson attack, a building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was set on fire and vandalized with anti-Christian graffiti.

WCC acting general secretary Georges Lemopoulos said that churches body "calls for swift and concrete measures to ensure those responsible for these and other similar attacks are in fact brought to justice, and further such attacks prevented."

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"The World Council of Churches is grateful for the clear and unequivocal response by the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin in a phone call to Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III," said Lemopoulos.

In that call Rivlin denounced the Jerusalem attack, calling it "a heinous crime" and affirmed that "those responsible must be brought to justice."

The Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat said in a statement that the fire was set deliberately, and that "there is no room for such deplorable activity" in the city, which is deemed holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Israel's Foreign Ministry has also condemned the attack and "any action of religious intolerance of any kind."

The WCC statement noted that as the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry has observed, such "religiously-motivated attacks and provocations by any party" risk further inflaming "an already volatile environment."

Moreover, they further diminish hopes for peace with justice in the region.

"The World Council of Churches therefore calls for swift and concrete measures to ensure those responsible for these and other similar attacks are in fact brought to justice, and further such attacks prevented.

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