- Title: Leaked Hamas Christmas memo causes Christian anger in Gaza
- Date: 23rd December 2020
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) CHRISTIAN JOURNALIST, SAMER TARAZI, SAYING: "We got really upset because the historic relationship between the Palestinian people is an excellent relationship. We set an example for the world in not having any sectarian problems, there is no fear, there is no discrimination by anyone. We will continue with our daily lives as Palestinian citizens." VIEW OF GAZA CHURCH OF HOLY FAMILY REHABILITATION HAMAS OFFICIALS VISITING LATIN CHURCH IN GAZA FLOWERS BROUGHT BY HAMAS OFFICIALS HAMAS OFFICIALS AND CHURCH CLERGYMEN INSIDE EMPTY CHURCH CHRISTMAS TREE IN CHURCH CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS IN CHURCH GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 20, 2020) (REUTERS) HAMAS OFFICIAL BASEM NAIM SPEAKING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAMAS OFFICIAL BASEM NAIM, SAYING: "There was never an intention to offend Christians or limit their ability to celebrate and to perform their religious rituals." GAZA CITY, GAZA (DECEMBER 21, 2020) (REUTERS) CHRISTMAS TREE AT 'MALDIVES RESTAURANT' CUSTOMER AT RESTAURANT DIMA AL RAYES CHECKING CHRISTMAS TREE VIEW OF CHRISTMAS TREE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) CUSTOMER AT RESTAURANT DIMA AL RAYES, SAYING: "We are bothered because our Christian brothers are not able to enjoy nor celebrate Christmas because of the occupation and Coronavirus pandemic. We want to be there for them and celebrate with them this New Year, this Christmas." DRONE FOOTAGE SHOWING CHRISTMAS TREE AT MALDIVES RESTAURANT (MUTE)
- Embargoed: 6th January 2021 14:16
- Keywords: Christians Christmas Gaza Hamas lockdown
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Middle East,Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA003DA88IMF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A leaked Hamas memo showing Gaza's ruling Islamist group wanted to curb Christmas celebrations among Gaza's Muslim majority has angered the enclave's tiny Christian community in the run-up to the holiday.
The ministry of religious affairs document, dated Dec. 15, called for "activities by the directorate of preaching and spiritual guidance to limit interaction with Christmas".
The leak went public last weekend, drawing anger from Palestinian Christians.
"We set an example for the world in not having any sectarian problems, therefore, we were very angry," said Samer Tarazi, a Christian journalist in Gaza. He said Christians just wanted life to continue "as normal".
Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Atallah Hanna, called the memo "inflammatory", but said it "will not harm our unity and good relations".
Hamas said the reaction was exaggerated and that it only wanted to ensure Muslims marked Christian holidays in accordance with Islamic law.
"There was never any intention to offend Christians or limit their ability to celebrate and perform their religious rituals," said Bassem Naim, a Hamas official.
The ministry, which is tasked with running Gaza's mosques and looking after Muslim and Christian affairs in the coastal strip, quickly released a statement saying Christians "have the right to hold their religious celebrations and they can't be offended or be restricted".
The statement added: "Just as Muslims are commanded to avoid violations of (Islamic law) on Muslim holidays, it is all the more reason for them to avoid (such violations) during the holidays of others."
It is rare for religious tensions in Gaza to spill over into the public domain.
While around 1% of the population of the Palestinian Territories as a whole are Christian, the percentage is small in Gaza, where there are around 1,000 mostly Greek Orthodox Christians among nearly 2 million Muslims.
The Christian community was already upset that celebrations will be limited because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gaza Christians cannot make their usual Christmas trips to Bethlehem this year due to increased COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by Israel - which has for years imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip citing security concerns about Hamas - and Palestinian curbs on movement to prevent the spread of infection.
(Production: Mohammed Salem, Mohammad Shana, Suheir Sheikh)
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