Abbot Gregory Collins, head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel, urged local Christians to respond to last week’s apparent arson attack against the Church of the Multiplication on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with love and forgiveness.
“A few nights ago we suffered a severe attack here. A fire that endangered human lives. All residents of the area – Christians, Druze, Muslims, and Jews should protest against this deed,” Collins told some 3,000 Israeli Christian demonstrators on Sunday afternoon.
However, Collins continued, “we are Christian and must react like Christians. …We will replace the terrible fire with the fire of God’s love and forgiveness.”
The protestors insisted that the Israeli government do everything to bring those responsible to justice and thereby prevent future hate crimes against Christians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend promised to do just that, noting that “the shocking arson of the church is an attack on all of us.”
The attack caused serious damage to the church. Police determined the fire was set intentionally after finding Hebrew graffiti vowing to destroy idol worshippers and discovering that the blaze had started from several different locations around the facility.
Sixteen Jewish youth were briefly arrested and brought in for questioning, but were later released due to a lack of evidence.