Breaking News: The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was the site of a bloody brawl between belligerent believers battling with brooms.
Members of rival Christian orders have traded blows at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with four people reported wounded in the fray.
Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic priests were sweeping up at the church following the Christmas rites of the Western churches earlier in the week.
Reports say some Orthodox faithful encroached on the Armenian section, prompting pitched battles with brooms.
Palestinian police formed a human cordon to separate the battling dark-robed and bearded priests and deacons, said to number about 80, so that cleaning could continue.
One report says the dispute started when the Greek Orthodox contingent wanted to place a ladder over the Armenian portion.
Back in September of this year this was a similar slugfest at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
You know, Muslims are often accused of being touchy and overreacting to what we would consider small slights. But look at what set off these Christian faithful:
The punch-up began after Greek and Russian Orthodox believers took offence at a door left open by members of the Franciscan order during a service.
At least five people were injured in the fracas – including Israeli police officers called in to quell it.
“There was lots of hitting going on. Police were hit, monks were hit … there were people with bloodied faces,” said Aviad Sar Shalom, an Israeli tour guide who witnessed the fight, according to Reuters news agency.
The same article notes a previous incident about an equally momentous conflict:
In 2002, monks from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church of Egypt – two groups which for years have been vying for control of the church’s roof – fought over the position of a chair on the roof.
Another thing Muslims are often accused of is holding on to old grievances. It is also often said that there will never be peace in the Middle East because of the intransigence of Muslims. And yet:
Rivalry between the six different churches dates back to the aftermath of the crusades and to the great schism between Eastern and Western Christianity in the 11th Century.
It took me a while to find out which six sects have custodianship of the church, but they are Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian Orthodox.
Can’t we blame this all on Muslims, somehow?
To prevent squabbling, two Muslim families have had guardianship of the key to the only entrance to the church since 1178 when they were entrusted with it by the Muslim ruler Salah el-Din (Saladin).
Well, we can blame them for not keeping order well enough, I guess.