February 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 24
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Christian Gravely Wounded

    JERUSALEM, FEB 2 (ZENIT).- There has been a renewed outbreak of tensions and arguments in Nazareth between Muslims and Christians. At the root of the problem is the controversy over the construction of a mosque in an area that was to be a Square to facilitate the welcome of pilgrims during the current Holy Year, in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation.

    A Muslim argued that a descendant of Saladin was buried near the site, hence the need for the mosque. Saladin was sultan at the time of the Crusades. He met with St. Francis of Assisi when the friar came to the Holy Land on a peace mission.

    The crisis in the city of Nazareth has been ongoing since 1998. The explosion of a hand-grenade in the Danial Restaurant in the neighborhood of Al Qanuk, which overlooks the city on the road to Cana, triggered a wave of fear of a new crisis between Christians and Muslims. The owner of the restaurant, a Christian, is in serious condition following the explosion. Two days ago, two more unexploded hand grenades were found in front of public toilets in the heart of town, very near the monument to Shebab el Din, Saladin's alleged descendant. The cornerstone of the new mosque, whose construction will actually begin after the Jubilee, is located nearby.

    The police believe the attack on the restaurant owner is probably vengeance on the part of Muslims. Some months ago the family that owns the restaurant was accused of killing a Muslim child. Judicial investigation proved them innocent, however. But the group of Islamic fundamentalists who are insisting on the construction of the mosque spread rumors that exacerbated existing hatreds. Finally, it was established that the murdered child was killed by Muslims for reasons "of honor" that were not clarified.

    Another hypothesis is that the attacks are organized by Muslims who are dissatisfied with the agreement between the two groups that won the municipal elections 14 months ago. The agreement resulted in chaos in the Nazareth city government. The locality belongs to the State of Israel, but its inhabitants are almost exclusively Muslims and Christians.

    Thanks to a city pact that straightened out a dangerous situation for the Jubilee celebrations, Ahmad Salman, the fundamentalist leader who led the struggle for the mosque, was elected Deputy-Mayor, and a friend of his, a member of another party, will soon be given a similar appointment. This is a provisional solution. The agreement limits the trial period to three months. If the two parties agree, the pact will be signed, if not, the city assembly will be dissolved.

    This solution has nothing to do either with the issue of the mosque, or with the Pope's visit, which will take place on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. ZE00020207


February 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 24

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