Palestine: Upcoming court hearings for St Mary’s Coptic Church

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Christians in the West Bank request renewed prayer for nuns of the Coptic Orthodox church and convent in Bethlehem, asking for a just conclusion to three separate legal cases. The next hearing is scheduled for 13 September.

The court cases relate to attacks on 30 April 2017, when one member of a family illegally occupying convent property assaulted a nun, Sister Maria. Another member of the family then attacked a vehicle driven by another nun, Sister Esther, as she was taking witnesses to the police station to make a statement. The assailants were unaware of the presence of a policeman inside the car, who made himself known and stopped the attack, but in court later failed to give a true account of events. Sister Esther suffered trauma during the attack and has been asked to provide the court with a psychologist’s report.

Sister Maria initiated a legal case against her female assailant and Sister Esther initiated a legal case against two male attackers. In addition, the female assailant of Sister Maria brought a complaint against her, claiming that the nun had in fact assaulted her in the convent property.

The family illegally occupying parts of the convent and responsible for the attacks has influential connections with the Palestinian Authorities and it is believed that the justice process is being hindered as a consequence. There have been innumerable delays and postponements of hearings in all three cases. The next hearings are scheduled for 13 September (female assailant v. Sister Maria), 19 September (Sister Maria v. female assailant) and 17 October (Sister Esther v. male assailants).

The Ministry of Finance in Ramallah is surveying the buildings in the old town of Bethlehem and seeking to affirm ownership of property. It is believed that the confirmation of title deeds could help solve the illegal occupancy of St Mary’s – the underlying cause of the dispute with the family, which first began in 1998.

Christians in the West Bank are thankful that there have been no further incidents with the occupying family, but request prayer that:
a.       The hearings will take place without further delay and that fair and impartial judgements will be given
b.       The judges and court officials will not be prejudiced against the Egyptian nuns
c.       The Ministry of Finance will complete the survey of the properties in the old part of Bethlehem and that this will solve ongoing disputes
d.       The family will leave the church property and find accommodation elsewhere

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