JERUSALEM (ACN) — A group calling itself "Islamic State in Palestine" last week distributed leaflets ordering Christians to leave the city by the end of Ramadan, July 18.
Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate, urging the faithful to be vigilant, said that “we must take these threats seriously. It would be enough that three young fundamentalists, armed with knives, attack a Christian home to cause panic in the Christian community.”
The message on the leaflets, which bear the black flag of ISIS, threatens Christians with death if they do not comply—a warning that recalls the ultimatum ISIS gave to Christians i Mosul in the summer of 2014. There have been numerous reports of Muslim Israeli citizens attempting to join ISIS forces, while there have been expressions of support for ISIS in the Palestinian territories.
In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Shomali said that the Patriarchate had not itself contacted Israeli authorities in connection with the leaflets. "But the Israelis are well informed,” he said, adding that “among the Christians in the Holy Land there is anxiety about the leaflets, although only a moderate anxiety.”
"There are threats. But if we compare our situation with what is happening in neighboring countries, we still feel much more secure. We are not feeling panic. Former Jerusalem Patriarch Michel Sabbah responded said that [Christians] are not afraid and that we will remain in the land. His words gave peace to many people,” the prelate said.
There are approximately 160,000 Christians in Israel, the majority of them Arab and citizens of the Jewish state. They represent just 2 percent of the total population.