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Palestinian Catholics worried about possible removal of Arafat


Some Palestinian Christians fear Islamic extremists could gain control if Palestinian National Chairman Yasser Arafat is removed from power.

"I am afraid that (Islamic) extremists will take over, so for that reason I want Arafat to remain our leader," said one Catholic Bethlehem University student who asked not to be identified. The student spoke as an Israeli siege on Arafat's compound continued.

A Catholic business leader who asked not to be identified said many Christians in the area share the student's concerns. The man said Arafat's followers do not have as strong an influence among Palestinians as Hamas leader Shiek Ahmed Yassin, who "can lead the streets".

He said, "Arafat has been part of the secular movement, and Christians are worried as they see a very strong Islamic movement."

In Bethlehem, where Christians, though a minority, have a large political and economic base, Arafat's Fatah party has strong influence. But in other areas, such as Jericho, Islamic extremists have gained power, the businessman said.

Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser, a Catholic, said Palestinians and Israelis should be concerned about the instability created by the removal of Arafat.

"A Palestine without Arafat is inconceivable," said Nasser.

"I don't think this will help the peace process or the security and stability situation. No doubt this will only bring about more instability," he said.

LINKS
Against all odds, Palestinian Christians seek resurrection in Bethlehem (Sojourners)
Pope seeks end to attacks on Palestinian authority (25/9/02)

SOURCE
Catholic News Service


26 Sep 2002