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