Haniyeh says committed to safety of Gaza Christians
The premier of the Palestinian government based in Gaza said Tuesday that he was committed to the safety and freedom of worship of the enclave's Christian minority Maan reported
Ismail Haniyeh told Father Hammam Ashzoz, the chargé d'affaires of the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, that it is "their right, and our obligation" to ensure that Gaza's 3,000 Christians are free to practice their religion.
Speaking at the cabinet headquarters with Ashzoz and Father George Hernandez, of the Latin Church in Gaza, the Hamas leader affirmed the strong bond shared between Palestinians of both religions.
Muslims and Christians in Palestine share "one goal and a common destiny," he said.
Haniyeh congratulated Christians upon the release of Chris Bandak, a Bethlehem-born member of Fatah's armed wing who was released to Gaza in the Israel-Hamas prisoner swap.
He said the resistance insisted on Bandak's freedom in the deal, which demonstrates the strong ties between Muslims and Christians working together for Palestine.
Ashzoz, the chargé d'affaires of the Latin Patriarch, expressed appreciation for the meeting and congratulated Haniyeh on the occasion of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which begins this week.
He thanked Haniyeh for his interest in Jerusalem and his protection of freedom of worship for Christians in Gaza. He also highlighted the role of the church in serving the needs of Palestinian citizens.
Haniyeh's remarks came amid an upsurge in sectarianism plaguing neighboring Egypt.
Egypt's Coptic minority had long complained of discrimination by the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak. Following his ouster in February, a string of attacks have killed Christians and damaged their holy places.
In October, Egypt's military fired on demonstrators in Cairo in clashes that left 28 people dead, most of them Copts. The army said the violence was sparked by attacks on soldiers, but witnesses disputed the account.