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Internal Palestinian issues
Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza: 5 Christians were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida - July 17, 2012
"The [Greek] Orthodox Church in Gaza yesterday accused an Islamic group of kidnapping five Christians in order to force them to convert to Islam.
In a press release published during a sit-down strike, held at the site of the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, the church's information bureau said: 'A dangerous Islamic movement is trying to persuade Christian youth and women to convert to Islam, thereby destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip.' It did not mention the name of the movement.
The press release added: 'The Islamic movement uses a dirty and dark, fear-inspiring approach; it employs heavy pressure, it extorts and uses undignified means, such as chemical drugs for the purposes of control and sowing fear in the hearts of those kidnapped.'
The press release stated: 'Ramez Al-Amash (24) was kidnapped on Saturday, in addition to a woman and three girls who were kidnapped from their homes on Wednesday.'
Spokesman for the Hamas police, Ayman Al-Batniji, said: 'We in the police emphasize most firmly that there has been no case of kidnapping, and reject these accusations.'
He emphasized: 'The youngster converted to Islam of his own free will, and the police tried to defend him when he approached the police for help, since he had a problem with his relatives while he visited his mother in a hospital.' He added, 'We call upon our Christian brethren, for whom we have the utmost respect and who enjoy unparalleled treatment in Gaza - not to spoil these relations.'
The church's press release continued: 'We requested of the honorable Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, to stop this Islamic movement immediately, and we told him that they must immediately return the woman, her young daughters, and the young man to their families.'
The press release also criticized the manner in which the policemen in Gaza behaved when the father of the kidnapped young man went to bring his son back. Their response was that they were unable to help him in any way, since they are unable to intervene in the work of a Muslim religious scholar named Salam Salameh (Hamas member of the Palestinian parliament). The press release continued: 'This conduct on the part of the Palestinian police shows that there is no security for anyone, nor protection for anyone, and that the present law is not capable of defending us. Therefore we hand over this problem to the government and to all those responsible for security in this country.'
There are 3,500 Christians living in Gaza, out of a population of a million and a half."
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