The ICoHS May Newsletter

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”.

Galatians 5:25

The Christian presence in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land is vital for all!

This was the message of the Heads of Churches and European Union Heads of Missions during last week’s meeting in Jerusalem.

After a month of turmoil and violence many Christians, Jews and Muslims are affected by the conflict in the Holy Land.  The church is taking the first steps towards reconciliation, as they meet local and international community leaders to engage in dialogue to seek sustainable solutions.  ICoHS is exploring how we can help facilitate this discussion in the coming months in order to tackle some of the root causes which resulted in the outburst of violence.
During this month’s events in the Holy Land, ICoHS connected church leaders with media, which allowed them to voice their concerns in Europe and the United States (see our website for the opinion article in “The Hill” or our Pentecost Event with Archbishop Hosam Naoum interview with the BBC).

We participated virtually in the Freedom of Religion and Believes (FoRB) meeting to update participants about what was happening in the Holy Land.  This resulted in Ms. Fiona Bruce, the MP’s Special Envoy for FoRB, to forward our message to Minister Cleverly for his consideration.

In addition, we were invited to join in the dialogue with Abrahamic Faith Leaders in the UK and had the privilege to convey the voice of the Christians in the Holy Land.
In July we hope to participate in the International Freedom of Religion Summit in Washington DC.  Together we aim to gain political support for global religious freedom movement and embolden religious groups, civil society and government to take stands for religious freedom.

ICoHS continued this month with its series on “Feasts of the Holy Land” as we started May with the celebration of Orthodox Easter, followed by Ascension Day and Pentecost.  Our virtual visit to the Holy Land on Pentecost (see our website  for the Pentecost Event) attracted 1000+ viewers on YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Next month we conclude both research-projects we commissioned on the Role of Christianity in the Holy Land and the Rapid Assessment of Christian Schools (of five denominations).  The findings of the research on the “Role of Christianity in the Holy Land” will be presented on October 13, 2021 in London.  We hope to invite key Church leaders from the UK as well as the Holy Land (Covid19 restrictions permitting) to this important event at Saint Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey.  In our next Newsletter we will share more information about this upcoming event.

ICoHS continues to collect funding for medical needs. Millions of dollars are pledged for emergency assistance to Gaza in response to the destruction, however, there is a real lack of medicines in other parts of the Holy Land, in particular in the Bethlehem area. 

During this pandemic many people cannot afford basic medicines.  We invite you to support our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land in this difficult period

Our bank account details are:

For UK donors:
Account Name: International Community of The Holy Sepulchre
Sort Code: 20-80-57
Account Number:10426857

For International donors:
Bank: Barclays
IBAN: GB38 BUKB 20805710426857

Please reference: Medical Campaign

Thank you for your prayers for the Peace of Jerusalem!

Warm regards,
Anita Delhaas-van Dijk
Chief Executive

Jerusalem churches are calling for intervention from the international community

Jerusalem churches are calling for intervention from the international community to stop the recent spiral of violence in the Holy Land.

In a statement, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches said they are “profoundly disheartened

and concerned about the recent violent events in East Jerusalem. These concerning developments, whether at the Al Aqsa Mosque or in Sheikh Jarrah, violate the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace. The actions undermining the safety of worshipers and the dignity of the Palestinians who are subject to eviction are unacceptable.

The special character of Jerusalem, the Holy City, with the existing Status Quo, compels all parties to preserve the already sensitive situation in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The growing tension, backed mainly by right-wing radical groups, endangers the already fragile reality in and around Jerusalem.”

Subsequent escalation in Gaza and Israeli cities has caused loss of life and widespread destruction. The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre echoes the churches’ call for peace and an immediate cessation of violence and provocation.

ICoHS has been in regular contact with the churches to offer support. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III, emphasised the need to recognise “the right of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents to express their righteous concerns and to live in their neighbourhoods with dignity and respect, away from the policy of expulsion and displacement, also noting the danger of the rise of the extreme right” that is behind the forced displacement.

The Latin Patriarchate called it “a question of justice for the inhabitants of the city to live, pray and work, each according to his/her own dignity; a dignity bestowed upon humanity by God himself.” It called on the authorities to “protect the special character of Jerusalem, called to be the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, a place of prayer and meeting, open to all and where all believers and citizens, of every faith and belonging, can feel at home, protected and guaranteed.”

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of the Lutheran Church condemned violations of the status quo agreement, which “only serves to fuel tensions and increase hatred among Israelis and Palestinians.” The status quo agreement “guarantees the three religions, and two people access to their holy sites during religious celebrations. In the last weeks, we have already seen violations of this agreement when Christians were harassed and denied access to the Church of the Resurrection for the Holy Fire and Easter celebration.”

ICoHS’ Chief Executive, Anita Delhaas, has said “for too long hateful ideologies have been allowed to go unchecked, and the result is what we are witnessing in Jerusalem. Frequent attacks on holy sites, threats and intimidation of worshipers, and mob behaviour in the city’s streets reflect alarming intolerance towards other religious communities. Those in positions of authority must take action to address this urgently and challenge the radical ideologies that seek to drive ancient communities from their homes in the Holy Land.”

ICoHS is committed to supporting the churches’ mission to promote peace and justice where everyone’s rights to security and freedom of religion are protected. The health and education ministries of the churches are more important than ever but these are overstretched and depend on the generous support of friends in the international community.

In addition to material support, the churches would value your prayers at this time, particularly for:

  • The safety of their congregations, staff and buildings while there is incitement and violence being directed towards minority groups
  • Courage and protection for the teachers and healthcare workers that care for children and vulnerable people in their communities
  • Wisdom for church leaders as they seek to promote peace in dialogue with their interreligious counterparts and national authorities
  • The international community to use its influence to bring about an immediate end to violence and for those promoting it to be brought to justice

The ICoHS April Newsletter

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”.

John 13:34

We started April with the Easter celebration according to the Gregorian calendar and are in the middle of Holy Week according to the Julian calendar as we approach the end of the month.

Preparations for Orthodox Easter are in full swing in the Holy Land. We are happy to inform you churches are open, albeit with some restrictions, and local people are invited again to participate in century old traditions such as the Holy Fire ceremony.

Earlier this month we heard the good news about the cancellation of the seizure of the “Imperial Hotel” at the entrance of the Jaffa Gate against the claims of the radicals. Although this is not the end of the road for this decade old battle, but it’s a positive step forward. The cancellation of the seizure imposed by the Israeli District Court, contributes greatly to strengthening the position of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in its battle to preserve Christian Heritage properties on the pilgrim route at Jaffa Gate.

Unfortunately, during the past days, events and confrontations in the city of Jerusalem are very concerning.
Church leaders and King Abdullah of Jordan denounced the fierce attacks launched by radicals, since the beginning of the holy month for Ramadan and the Holy Week for the Christians, against worshipers at the Damascus Gate and its surroundings.

The Patriarch of the Latin Church in Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, also expressed his appreciation for King Abdullah’s commitment to free access to the Holy Places and the respect of the Status Quo in Jerusalem, and his promotion for inter-religious harmony.

The Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III is also keen to guarantee freedom of worship for all and calls on everyone to respect the sanctity of the holy month, maintain peace and safety. He stressed that Jerusalem will remain the gate to heaven and the key to peace.

Besides the tensions in the streets of most major cities in the Holy Land, schools are experiencing increased stresses, due to the lack of finance/school tuitions. While, medical health care institutions are dealing with lots of confusion around the vaccination programs for Covid19.

Education in the Holy Land

Most education institutions have re-opened their doors for students, but have difficulties paying salaries and maintaining school buildings. ICoHS will commission a rapid-assessment next month, looking at the education system supported by the Syriac, Coptic, Orthodox and Evangelical Lutheran churches. The results of this rapid-assessment will function as building blocks for innovative projects to improve the overall education for children in the Holy Land.

Health care in the Holy Land

ICoHS will continue to collect funding for medical needs. Due to the pandemic health care in the Holy Land has become urgent and many people cannot afford basic medicines. We invite you to follow our social media fundraising campaign in the coming weeks.

As tensions build up in the Holy Land, ICoHS will work with international media drawing attention to the importance and necessity of all the people of the Holy Land to freely participate in all the religious celebrations.

Wishing all, who celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar a blessed time as they remember the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We value your prayers for the peace of Jerusalem.
Warm regards,

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk
Chief Executive.

The ICoHS March Newsletter

But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us”.

Romans 5:8

As I write this month’s newsletter we are in the middle of Holy Week.  A time of reflection in preparation for (Latin) Easter early April.  Eastern Orthodox Churches base their liturgical calendar on the Julian calendar and will celebrate this important Feast early May.

Bishop Graham Tomlin of Kensington recorded 9 Holy Week reflections as a “Virtual Pilgrimage” which can be viewed on our website and they are also available on Premier TV and Premier Radio as podcasts.

In order to create an international community, we are planning to organize an informal Zoom Call “Tea & Talk” on Monday 5 April at 4 PM UK time and want to invite 30 people to join us to meet with Rev. Nabil Shehadi and Chef Zaki Ma’ayeh and learn more about culinary traditions during the Feast of Easter in the Holy Land.  Our participants will have the opportunity to meet with families in the Holy Land and learn how they are celebrating during this time.  If you like to join – please register on Eventbrite “Feasts of the Holy Land – Tea & Talk Event” or connect with us directly.

Slowly but surely Covid19 restrictions are lifted and we are pleased to know that all churches in the Holy Land are open and local people are able to attend Easter celebrations.  Travelling to the Holy Land is still restricted and the economic situation for many families is becoming increasingly difficult.  In particular many people are in need of medicines and medical support.  The story of the Khoury* family is one of many stories we recently heard from our friends in the Holy Land:

The Khoury* family with five members: father, Issa* mother, Sarah* two daughters Samira* and Dunia* and a boy called Daniel*. The eldest daughter, Samira is in high school now and she is under much pressure. A friend of the family explained how the hard circumstance this family is going through. The father, Issa is the main supporter for the family. His wife Sarah, never worked and is going through hard times because she is diabetic and she cannot work. Issa worked in a souvenir shop, where they had tourists coming every day especially in high seasons. When Covid19 spread in Bethlehem in March 2020, his boss gave him two month’s salary out of sympathy, but then ended the contract with everyone in the souvenir shop. Issa recently bought an apartment and cannot pay his loan and now having to survive with the basic needs and the medicine for his wife Sarah.  Samira recently discovered that she is, like her mom diabetic.  Samira is depressed and not knowing how to deal with the situation. To add to the pain, they all have Corona now and are not able to buy the basics like vitamins or pain killers.  The Khoury family is in need of medicine.  Samira needs lab tests, medicine and injections.

(*) These names are not their real names in order to protect their privacy. Please help us support families in the Holy Land!  You can go to our website and donate through our Stewardship or Signatry accounts and we will ensure with our church partners that medicines will reach the families in need during this Easter period.
Jesus died for our sins, and He has risen from the dead to pave the way for the bright future of humanity!
Warm regards,

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk
Chief Executive

The ICoHS February Newsletter

”Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” 

Romans 12:12

There is lots of good news to share this month, but unfortunately also some bad news…
The bad news is that there was again an attack on a church in the Holy Land.  Last December the church in Getsemane suffered an attack, early February the Romanian Orthodox Church in Musrara was vandalized by Israeli radicals.  Video footage shows the assailants attempting to gain entry by smashing a lock to the front gate of the church and destroying its CCTV cameras.  His Beatitude, Theophilus III, Patriarch of Jerusalem described it as an event “that reflects the extent of the Israeli extremists’ hatred for the Christian religion in general, and the Orthodox Church in particular”.  It is important that the Christian community comes together to present a unified voice in condemning such actions
More bad news is that the measures combatting Covid19 are affecting the Christian community in the Holy Land.  The lack of income and social security leave many families in dire conditions. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), of which ICoHS holds the secretariat, invited church leaders in Jerusalem on February 25 to inform Parliamentarians in the UK on current issues in the Holy Land.  We offered a platform to engage with one another and ask questions on how the local church is advocating for Christians during this time of pandemic.

The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started to distribute the funds raised from the Bethlehem Star event among 7 schools, 2 institutions and 3 different projects from different local churches (Latin, Orthodox, Lutheran and Syriac) in the Bethlehem area to support with tuition fees, medical needs and food packages.  Local volunteers helped with the distribution under the supervision of Father Ibrahim Faltas of the Custody of the Holy Land.

More good news is that Georgia Kamberi joined our ICoHS Team in London.  Georgia will be assisting with communications and events.  Eoin O’loghlen will continue to be involved with us through the Good Faith Partnership.

Last time we mentioned our plans for a meeting in London and Washington DC.  The prolonged (travel) restrictions of the global pandemic forced us to re-evaluate our plans.  ICoHS is now planning to organize high-level meetings in London and Washington DC in September – most probably it will be a hybrid event (small group of people meeting physically and making the event available virtually for a larger group).  We hope to present an interesting report on Christianity in the Holy Land and will share soon more about this exciting opportunity.

This month we also started with our new live-stream series on “Feasts of the Holy Land”.  If you missed the live-stream on February 16 – please watch the YouTube video below:

As we prepare for (Latin) Easter, we are creating a special “Holy Land Pilgrimage” which will be available daily on our website and on Premier TV during Holy Week as part of our series “Feasts of the Holy Land”. We invite you to share this virtual pilgrimage with your church community, family or friends.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.  If you are not yet an ICoHS-founding member, please visit our website at and sign up as founding member allowing us to continue to bring the Holy Land “closer to home” and encouraging the Christians in the region.

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk
Chief Executive

The ICoHS January Newsletter

“By the power of the Holy Spirit may you abound in hope” 
Romans 15:13

Much of the pessimism which blighted 2020 has continued into the beginning of 2021.  In spite of our continued lock downs in different parts of the world, including the Holy Land, we must not forget the intolerable plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, especially at the end of the Christmas period which is often a time of great joy and energy in the birthplace of Jesus.

Without the custom of pilgrims and little government support, Christian businesses have struggled to remain open.  This has exasperated the divisions in the area and continues to cast doubt over the future of Christians in the Holy Land.  In response to this, ICoHS has directed $30,000 raised through your generosity in the Bethlehem Star event to assist struggling Christian families, helping them with school tuition and medical needs.

We are excited to share our plans for the coming year which has not been deferred by the pandemic. We will be holding our Summit this September in Westminster Abbey, bringing together leading voices on Christians in the Holy Land. This will be followed by a similar event in Washington DC in the United States of America.

As the only organisation to receive a mandate from all 13 churches in Jerusalem, we are pleased to announce the start of our “Feasts of the Holy Land” series. We will start with the Feast of St. Simeon with a live-stream on February 16, the day before Latin Ash Wednesday leading into lent and Holy Week.

This series aims to bring Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant communities together to celebrate these ancient traditions that are often less popular in modern times.

Looking forward to virtually meet you during our live-stream on February 16, in which we will share interesting facts about Saint Simeon, give you an opportunity to meet clergy from the Holy Land, roam the streets of Jerusalem with Bassem (a tour operator) and visit the Monastery of Saint Simeon in the Qatamon area.

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk

Chief Executive

The ICoHS December Newsletter

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” Isaiah 40:31

Dear Patron,

At the end of 2020 we look back with mixed feelings on the past year. The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre started this year with exciting plans to strengthen churches in the region and support them as they extend their ministries and enrich local communities in the Holy Land.

Due to travel and other Covid19 restrictions, many of our planned activities became virtual. We were happy to connect with many hundreds of people around the global through our digital events.

During these events we felt it important to highlight the impact of the pandemic in the Holy Land.

Covid19 brought life in the Holy Land to a stop. Since no pilgrims can visit the region, many Christians have lost their livelihoods. Thank you for supporting them through ICOHS’s Hope for the Holy Land Campaign around Easter and the virtual Bethlehem Star Event last month through which we were able to raise funding to support the local church and to contribute to the daily needs of many families in the Holy Land.

As our International Community of the Holy Sepulchre grows, we are happy to welcome many members from South America and therefore, this monthly newsletter is now also available in Spanish. We plan to translate our website in Spanish too in the coming months to enlarge our engagement.

Our CEO’s Christmas Address

In 2021 we hope to travel again to the Holy Land. We are making plans to organize an ICoHS Summit in September in the UK, Brussels and US and will inform you accordingly.

While we cannot travel yet, we want to continue sharing information about the realities on the ground for the Christians in this part of the world. We hope to share every month a virtual experience of one of the Feast of the Holy Land to connect our international community with the local churches.

Thank you again for your prayers and support during 2020.

On behalf of ICoHS, I wish you a blessed New Year.

Anita Delhaas- van Dijk

Chief Executive

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