GAZA: Two conversions that a Christian family says were forced have strained relations between a tiny Palestinian Christian community in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Muslim majority.
Hundreds of Christians have staged protests in Gaza's main church in the past week, demanding the return of members of their community of 2,500, whom they said were kidnapped by Islamic proselytisers and forced to convert to Islam.
Christians are blaming the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Scholars Association and its chairman Salem Salama, a senior member of the Hamas movement.
Hamas has run Gaza since its forces seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007, ousting security services loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement.
Hamas officials reject the church's accusations, saying two Christians, a man and a woman, converted freely to Islam. The woman, who had left her husband, brought along her three daughters aged 12, 9, and 6 who are now being taught the Holy Quran.
The 24-year-old man told reporters he had become Muslim of his own free will and wanted to go back to his family, should they accept him as a Muslim. A day later, he returned home.
It was not possible to speak to the newly converted woman, Hiba Daoud, but in a video clip made by a pro-Hamas news website she tells her family it was her decision to become a Muslim.
"We are living with a (Muslim) family, they bring us all we need, they teach us how to pray and everything," said Hiba, wearing a full Muslim dress and a scarf covering her hair.
"I love you all, I hope no one feels upset with me, it was my decision which I made months ago."
But her aunt, Fatin Ayyad, says Hiba spoke under duress.
"We are increasingly worried about our sons and daughters. If those people joined Islam of their own will it would not have been a problem. But they were under pressure," she said.