Lifestyle & Belief

Holy site sparks Christian infighting

Each day monks from six denominations pass each other, chanting as loud as they can, seemingly to drown out the others' prayers. They argue over issues small and large, and sometimes this competition spills over into actual violence. Two months ago, two monks fought each other during rival religious processions. Like most disputes here, it's a turf war, one denomination fearing that another is trying to lay claim to an area that doesn't belong to it. this Israeli lawyer and historian says the holy place is their battlefield about who is right and wrong. These conflicts go back hundreds of years. In the 19th century, the ruling Turks tried to resolve the conflicts by dividing up the seven churches in Israel among these denominations. The Turkish agreement is still enforced today and specifies that ownership is given by the right to clean or repair, which is why there are such fierce fights about cleaning. The latest dispute is about repairing the church's roof. The Ethiopians live on the roof and their rooms are falling apart. This area used to belong to another sect until the 1970s when the Ethiopians went in, changed the locks, and took it over. This Ethiopian priests say the roof has become dangerous but they can't make repairs with consent of the other denomination, which won't give the consent. Still this priest says the Ethiopians won't leave. At the other church, this spokesman says his sect are the rightful owner of the roof and will carry out necessary repairs, but doesn't think any repairs are needed. The Ethiopian church has appealed to the government of Israel to step in and carry out the repairs. It says it's acting for its own sake, but all sects claim of right with this church.

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