GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Palestinian activists who were were deported from Bethlehem to the Gaza Strip in 2002 published a letter Sunday addressing Pope Francis and urging him to do something about their suffering.
The letter described the suffering of 39 Palestinian activists from the Bethlehem area who were deported in 2002 after hiding out at the Nativity Church for 40 days. Thirteen were exiled to Europe and 26 others to the Gaza Strip.
“Today we appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis the first on the occasion of his visit to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him,” the letter read. "From the land of the three heavenly religions ... we deliver to Your Holiness a message of love and peace from the believers in Palestine who are being tortured.
“From those who are still suffering atrocities practiced by Israeli occupation in an obvious breach to all heavenly laws mentioned in the Bible, Torah, and Quran.”
It continued: “Thirteen years have passed since we were deported from the Nativity Church after the Israeli occupiers occupied our city Bethlehem. We were besieged inside the church for 39 days. The Israeli did not show any respect to the sacredness of the place, but instead they shot dead civilians inside the Nativity Church, the birthplace of Jesus.
“The first victim was the church’s bell-ringer Samir Samaan. Eight other people were shot dead and 30 were injured inside the church which suffered material damage as well because Israeli troops fired gunshots and fire bombs inside paying no respect to the sacredness of the place.”
The letter continued to describe the deportees’ suffering as well as the ongoing oppressive Israeli procedures against the Palestinian people in general including both Muslims and Christians.
The letter then appealed to the pontiff by urging him to intervene and call upon the Israelis to allow all deportees both in the Gaza Strip and in European countries to return to their city, the birthplace of Jesus.
Furthermore, the letter invited the pope to visit the Gaza Strip so he can watch firsthand the suffering of both Muslims and Christians in the coastal enclave which has been under crippling siege for eight years.