JERUSALEM (JTA) – Thousands of Israeli demonstrators, most of them Christian, demonstrated in front of a church in Israel that was the victim of an alleged arson attack.
The demonstrators carried signs and crosses on Sunday afternoon outside of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the site where Jesus is believed to have fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish, the Hebrew language news website Walla reported.
Protesters called for the arrest of those culpable for the attack.
The northern Israeli church was burned early Thursday morning in what is believed to have been an arson attack. Graffiti reading “False idols will be smashed” and “pagans” were found on the walls of the church, leading police to believe the fire was set deliberately as part of a hate crime.
Some 16 youths, reportedly all residents of the West Bank who were hiking in the area, were detained for questioning in the attack and later released.
“We are in the place where Christ performed his miracles, and we the monks have hosted invalids here for years,” said Abbot Gregory Collins, head of the Order of Saint Benedict in Israel, Ynet reported. “We will replace the terrible fire with the fire of God’s love and forgiveness.”
A Mass was held in the church following the protest, according to reports.