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Armenian Patriarchate protests deportation of seminarians

Special from Arthur Hagopian

September 9, 2009

Jerusalem / PNN - The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem has lodged a strong protest against a decision by the Israeli Ministry of Interior to deport two seminarians involved in a fight with a Jewish youth who had spat on a religious procession they were participating in.

Patriarchate spokesperson Father Pakrad Bourjekian noted that this was not the first time such an unprovoked aggression against Armenian or Christian clergymen in Jerusalem had occurred.

He said not only were the clergy singled out for this kind of treatment, but lay members of the Armenian community who wore or displayed crosses bore the brunt of such attacks.

The latest provocation occurred on Sunday evening as Armenian seminarians were returning to the Convent of St James after holding their weekly procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As they neared the convent, a young Jew wearing a kipa spat on them.

One of the seminarians accosted the youth who responded with another blob of spit, leading to a brawl which police stopped by arresting two of the Armenian seminarians and holding them for 24 hours.

That same evening, the police informed the Armenian Patriarchate that the matter would be dealt with at court the next morning.

But when the Armenians presented themselves at court, they were summarily informed that the police had referred the matter to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior which had decided on the deportation of the two seminarians, Bourjekian said.

It complained that the Ministry has ignored protests and remonstrations, adding spitting against Christians by Jews is not a new issue, but has been practised for several years, without the police taking any measures to stop it.

Bourjekian also noted that in addition to this "harassment by civilians", the Interior Ministry intentionally delays renewing visas of Armenian monks and priests who have been born in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, "causing them undue distress."

He voiced concern "this kind of persecution" against the Armenians might escalate to include not only seminarians but priests, bishops and archbishops as well.





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