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Palestinian churches to hold Sunday services in honor of Mandela

Dec. 7, 2013 8:30 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 8, 2013 7:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Churches across the West Bank will hold special services in honor of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela on Sunday, according to a statement released by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant congregations will dedicate their prayers to the South African Leader, who embodied the struggle against colonialism and oppression," the PLO statement read.

"The government and people of Palestine send their sincere condolences to the government and people of South Africa and reiterate their gratitude and support for this nation that continues to stand with us in our just cause for freedom," it continued.

Services in Beit Jala, Bethlehem, and Ramallah will be attended by senior Palestinian government officials. The South African ambassador will be present at the Nativity Church for the service, according to the statement.

Palestinians marked Nelson Mandela's death across the West Bank in protests on Friday, commemorating the legacy of the "freedom fighter" who passed away on Thursday. Dozens were injured when Israeli forces dispersed those protests.

Nelson Mandela was a frequent advocate of the Palestinian cause. Israel, meanwhile, was a close military and economic ally of the South African apartheid regime from 1973 onwards.

Mandela called Israel a "terror state" in Oct. 1990 during a visit to Australia, lambasting Israel for "slaughtering defenseless and innocent Arabs in the occupied territories."

"We don't regard that as acceptable," he continued.

In an interview in June 1990 with ABC News, meanwhile, Mandela said "We identify with the PLO because, just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination. ... To think that, because Arafat is conducting a struggle against Israel that we must therefore condemn him, we can't do it. It is just not possible."

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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