We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A copy of the letter from the Municipality of Beit Jala to Pope Francis

For a copy of the letter from the Municipality of Beit Jala to Pope Francis, please click here:


Pope and President Peres: Concerns Regarding Current Political and Social Situation in the Middle East

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 251 hits

Pope Francis met this morning with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Shortly after, President Peres met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The Holy Father and the Israeli Head of State spoke on various issues, particularly the current political and social situation in the Middle East.

In a communique released by the Holy See, both hoped for a “speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” The statement also said that with the availability of both sides in the conflict as well as support from the international community, “an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two Peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region.”

The Israeli president and Pope Francis expressed concern and worry for the current situation occurring in Syria, and hoped for a solution that “privileges the logic of reconciliation and dialogue.”

The meeting concluded with both noting the progress that has been made regarding relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, especially with regards to the Bilateral Working Commission. The Commission, the communique stated,”is preparing an agreement regarding issues of common interest” between the the Vatican and Israel.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-meets-with-president-shimon-peres-of-israel?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Israeli and Palestinian leaders must move beyond words and take concrete action on final status issues, Ban tells UN meeting

 issues, Ban tells UN meeting

Palestinian children playing in Khallet Zakariya beside the Israeli settlement of Alon Shvut. IRIN/Erica Silverman

29 April 2013 – Welcoming renewed international engagement in the Middle East peace process, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that building on that support required Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to “move beyond words” and tackle final status issues in a constructive spirit.

“The status quo is unsustainable, both politically and economically,” the Secretary-General said in a message delivered on his behalf by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Carlos Lopes, to the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, which began today in Addis Ababa. “There is an urgent need for a concerted push for peace this year if we are to salvage the two-State solution, he said.

The two-day meeting, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, is on the theme “African solidarity with the Palestinian people for the achievement of its inalienable rights, including the sovereignty and independence of the State of Palestine”.

In is message, the Secretary-General said that the accomplishments of the Palestinian State-building programme and donor funding will be difficult to maintain in the absence of concrete progress on the political track.

Again emphasizing the belief that 2013 would be a critical year for the peace process, he outlined his five priorities: collective international engagement, meaningful negotiations, stability in Gaza, Palestinian reconciliation, and preventing the financial collapse of the Palestinian Authority. “These goals are interdependent and mutually reinforcing,” he said.

“A window of opportunity for renewed international engagement has opened following the visit of President Obama to the region. I am also encouraged by the subsequent visits by Secretary of State John Kerry,” he said.

In his recent meeting with President Obama, Secretary-General Ban reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to support any serious initiative that presents a credible political horizon, including multilaterally, through the diplomatic Quartet and key regional partners. “Now is the time for concerted action,” he said.
He said that the decision by the United States to restore aid to the Palestinians was highly welcome, as was the decision of the Israeli Government to resume the monthly transfers of clearance revenues. “I call on donors, especially those from the region, to accelerate the provision of timely and predictable assistance to stabilize the finances of the Palestinian Authority.”

Meanwhile, he stressed the crucial need to defuse tensions on the ground and to preserve the calm. The Secretary-General was concerned by renewed violence, particularly over the situation of Palestinian prisoners and violations of the November 2012 Gaza ceasefire.

Israel’s decision to close key crossings in Gaza had only exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, he said, urging the parties to refrain from actions and rhetoric that aggravated tensions and diminished the prospects for negotiations, “which remain the only way towards the two-State solution.”

Recognizing the importance of the prisoners’ issue, he said that prisoner deaths should be promptly investigated by an independent authority. “A solution must be urgently found for the long-term hunger strikers,” he said, adding that administrative detainees should be charged and face trial, or released without delay. Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest and act with restraint, and protests should be kept non-violent.

He said that the United Nations would continue its efforts to solidify the Gaza ceasefire and he condemned the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. At the same time, Gaza borders should be fully opened for the legitimate movement of people and goods. That was especially important given the humanitarian situation, he said, with much of Gaza’s population relying on assistance from the UN and its partners, and given the major investments required for Gaza’s water resources and other critical development needs.

“I am deeply troubled by Israel’s continued settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all of which is illegal under international law,” the Secretary-General said, emphasizing that those actions constitute ever-greater impediments to peace and must not be allowed to prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations. At the same time, Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be recognized and addressed, especially on the issue of arms smuggling and rocket fire.

Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44785&Cr=middle+east&Cr1=#.UYAIZcqpc98

Peres invites Pope Francis to Israel

Pope Francis (R) talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool 
Reuters/Reuters - Pope Francis (R) talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Israeli President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis on Tuesday to visit Israel, at his first meeting with the new pontiff who has appealed for peace in the Middle East.

"I am expecting you in Jerusalem, not just me but the whole country of Israel," Peres told the pope in the presence of reporters after 30 minutes of private talks in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, made an appeal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians in his Easter address last month.

Both of Francis' two immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, visited the Holy Land, including Palestinian territories, in 2000 and 2009 respectively.

Peres asked Francis "to pray for all of us" and told the pope that he would pray for him during a trip on Wednesday to the central Italian city of Assisi, where he will visit the tomb of St. Francis, whose name Bergoglio adopted when elected pope.

Francis will travel to Rio de Janeiro in July to preside at the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Youth, a gathering of young people from around the world. He is expected to visit his native Argentina in early 2014.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/peres-invites-pope-francis-israel-122635401.html;_ylt=AhzuCj7nN3mfESY2nh2MiJ7Nt.d_;_ylu=X3oDMTVxZWpicTNzBGNjb2RlA2dtcHRvcDEwMDBwb29sd2lraXVwcmVzdARtaXQDQXJ0aWNsZSBNaXhlZCBMaXN0IE5ld3MgZm9yIFlvdSB3aXRoIE1vcmUgTGluawRwa2cDOWI0NDg0ZDUtNjI1Ni0zODVlLTkxZDktMzFjZmNiMzI3NzEwBHBvcwMyBHNlYwNuZXdzX2Zvcl95b3UEdmVyAzc3MjgyNGIwLWIxOTEtMTFlMi1hZGY2LTBhODEzNzRkNWIwMQ--;_ylg=X3oDMTMxdmE1cGxrBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDNjZmN2NmODYtMTIxYi0zZWQ5LWIwNGEtZjQyMTA5MDY5YWNjBHBzdGNhdANwb2xpdGljc3x3b3JsZARwdANzdG9yeXBhZ2U-;_ylv=3 

ACOHL on the Cremisan Valley issue

JERUSALEM – The Assembly of Catholic  Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a press release following the verdict last week favoring the construction of the wall of separation in the Cremisan Valley.  The appeal called for a change in the course of the wall according to the route of the ‘green line’.
Communiqué :
A few days ago, an Israeli court in Tel Aviv issued its verdict on the Cremisan Valley issue, endorsing the previously decided path of the wall separating the convent of the Salesian Sisters who run a thriving school and at the same time includes the lands of 58 Palestinian families from Beit Jala to the area of the Israeli settlement of Gilo.

We are frustrated by this unjust decision that invokes the need  for security of Israel but also the difficulty of changing the route of the already built portion of the wall, which makes us a fait accompli. Note that fait accompli cannot become the source of a new law.

This is why we join all those who work for peace and justice. We ask to change the route of the wall along the “Green Line”. We hope that this will take place in the Supreme Court.

We remind Israeli decision-makers that the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and does not strengthen the position of the moderates.

With our prayers for peace in the Holy Land, on the basis of mutual respect and international legitimacy,
His Beatitude Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jérusalem
Président of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries  of the Holy Land

Monday, April 29, 2013

Palestinian Christians urge pope to oppose wall

People run past the separation wall during the West Bank’s first marathon in Bethlehem, Sunday, April 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
People run past the separation wall during the West Bank’s first marathon in Bethlehem, Sunday, April 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
JERUSALEM: Palestinian Christians near Bethlehem on Monday urged Pope Francis to speak up against an Israeli decision to build its controversial separation barrier on a route they say would cut off their community.

"We cry to your Holiness with a feeling of despair and urgency in order to keep alive our hope that justice and peace is still possible," said an open letter from the Christians of Beit Jala, a town near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

"The Israeli military occupation that has already started building the 'famous wall' annexing Palestinian land... (is) separating Bethlehem as well as other regions from Jerusalem and our holy places," it said.

The letter came as Israel's President Shimon Peres was due to arrive in Italy on a three-day visit during which he would meet Pope Francis.

"We respectfully ask you to make use of this meeting to pass a strong message regarding the people of Palestine, and particularly the case of Beit Jala's Cremisan land," it said.

The letter added: "We need concrete actions in order to end Israel's impunity so we can live with dignity in our free state... Your holiness, your election brought us hope that things would change. We are still hopeful."

An Israeli court ruled last week in favour of constructing the so-called separation barrier through the 170-hectare Cremisan Valley, where many of Beit Jala's Christians work on the land and its vineyards.

The barrier's planned route would cut them off from the valley, and would effectively separate it from Jerusalem, which is five kilometres (three miles) away, locals say.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that parts of the barrier were illegal and should be torn down.

In the Cremisan area, the route of the barrier deviates sharply from the Green Line, the internationally-accepted line marking the divide between Israel and the territories it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

But Israel's defence ministry insists it protects Israelis and that the route is determined by "specific security considerations" of the area.

"Building the Wall in the Bethlehem area it's not only a violation of international law... it is also an attack against Palestinian social fabric and Palestinian Christian presence," said Nabil Shaath, a member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party.

"Separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem for the first time in history, stripping Palestinians, mainly Christians, from their land in order to build and expand Israeli colonial settlements, walls and checkpoints is a cruel crime that further closes the chances for peace," he said.

Source: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Apr-29/215448-palestinian-christians-urge-pope-to-oppose-wall.ashx#axzz2RmW74mY5

Aleppo Spokesman: No News on Syrian Archbishops

Fears Grow for Their Safety Now a Week After Kidnapping


London, (Zenit.org)

A spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo says there is still no news about the two Syrian archbishops kidnapped a week ago, on April 22.
The spokesman, who asked not to be named for security reasons, spoke today with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

"We still do not know where the two archbishops are or who has taken them," he told the charity, speaking from Syria. "There are many Christians being kidnapped now and this is the first time where we have absolutely no clue about what has happened, where nobody has taken responsibility for the abduction.
“This is of course very worrying – especially as we are now on day eight since [the kidnapping] happened.”
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yagizi and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim were abducted some five miles west of Aleppo, the city to which they were returning after traveling to the Turkish border to negotiate the release of two priests – Fathers Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz – kidnapped on Feb. 9. The archbishops' driver, Deacon Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was killed.

Even if the archbishops are being held in a safe location, there is concern for the health of Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Ibrahim, who takes medication for high blood pressure and diabetes, and is not thought to have had the medication with him when he was taken.

The diocesan spokesman said that Church leaders were combating pressure from the Christian community who, he said, were calling for demonstrations to appeal for the archbishops’ release, a move which he said could antagonise the kidnappers.

Saying that services and prayer vigils were taking place including one broadcast on Syrian TV, he added: “The Christians are worried and want to express their anger about what has happened.
“But every step should be carefully studied – we have to think about what the response will be from the kidnappers.”

He went on to appeal for continuing international pressure for the archbishops’ release.
Stressing the prelates’ high status, he said he was hopeful that diplomatic intervention would prove effective.
The spokesman said, “So far, the international community has done very well in putting pressure. We do not want that pressure to subside – government, civil society, churches and NGOs – different levels of help might help.”

He called on Christians “and all people of good will” to pray for the archbishops’ release.
“What is so sad about this," he concluded, "is that both men were among those working hardest for peace and yet in this time of conflict they are among those paying the highest price.”


Court decision favors building of separation wall in the Cremisan Valley

CREMISAN – Here below is the press release  of the Society of St. Yves about the Court Decision approving the building of a separation wall in the Cremisan Valley.
logo St Yves
Press Release: The Israeli Special Appeals Committee rules in favor of building the separation wall on the lands of the Cremisan Valley

The Israeli Special Appeals Committee for land seizure under emergency law released its verdict last Wednesday 24/04/2013, in the case of the Cremisan Valley against the separation wall. The verdict ruled in favor of the proposed second route which leaves the convent on the Palestinian side of the wall. With this decision the appeals submitted by Advocate Ghayyath Nasser who represented the land owners in the Cremisan Valley and the lawyer of the Society of St. Yves, Advocate Manal Hazzan-Abu Sinni, who represented the nuns of the Salesian Convent, were all together rejected. The decision came out two months after the final hearing on 12th of February and after seven years of proceedings.

The committee decided that building the separation wall according to the alternative route, which will surround the Salesian Nuns Convent and Primary School from three sides and will confiscate most of the convent’s lands, is a reasonable solution that balances Israel’s security needs on one hand, and freedom of religion and the right to education on the other.

The Society of St. Yves was initially successful in changing the primary course of the wall, by which the Convent and the School will remain on the Palestinian side of the wall. Still the Society of St. Yves sees the verdict as highly problematic and unjust as it doesn’t even discuss the violation of freedom of religion, the right to education as well as the economical damage caused for a unique Christian minority in Beit Jala by the construction of the wall.

In the decision it is emphasized that the nuns were allowed to join the case at a late stage, which resulted in altering the primary suggested route of the wall and which wolud left the convent on the Israeli side. Through the new route the school and the convent are not separated from Beit Jala anymore. By approving the alternative route the educational mission of the school will not be affected as the street leading to the compound will remain open. The committee also declared that the claims regarding future expansion of the school and convent are weak arguments which have no legal implications as they were not backed by plans or maps approved by the authorities.

Furthermore, the committee considered that the agricultural gate that is planned to be established near the convent will allow passage of the nuns and monks to the Salesian Monks Monastery on the other side of the wall which will guarantee their right of freedom of religion. The gate would also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands, especially that the State has declared in front of the committee to be flexible in issuing permits.

The committee has ignored all testimonies and claims of the landowners regarding the damage caused to their land by building the wall and the fact that it will separate them from their lands.

The committee ignored all references and arguments based on international law like the protection of religious minorities. It also rejected the expert opinion given by Professor Judy Green on the environmental damage to the valley which would be caused by building the wall.

Finally, the committee concluded that its authority is only to decide on one and a half kilometer of the separation wall. Thus it sees no possibility of refusing the proposed alternative route as it lies not in its responsibility to approve the proposed route by the landowners and the nuns beneath Gilo as this would actually mean the dismantling of the adjacent, already built parts of the wall.

St. Yves will consider taking the case to the High Court. A translation of the verdict to English will follow.

Society of St. Yves

The Holy Land in the heart of the Pope


VATICAN CITY – The Holy Father received on Monday, April 15, 2013, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and his delegation made up of his Vicars for Israel, Jerusalem and Palestine, Jordan and the Hebrew speaking community. The new Archbishop of Tunis and some priests were also received by Pope Francis.

This meeting was above all the opportunity for the Patriarch and the delegation to reaffirm communion with the new successor of St. Peter and with the universal Church, bringing the prayers of the faithful of the Holy Land to the new Pope. The Patriarchal delegation also asked Pope Francis to pray for the Holy Land so that the Christians who live there can continue to live in the places where Jesus lived.
The Patriarch presented the Church of the Holy Land, and he also described the daily reality of the “little flock,” the local Christian community. Vatican Radio echoed this meeting stressing that: peace in the Middle East, the situation of Christians in the region, the Syrian crisis and the growing number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries (including Jordan) were the main themes of  the Patriarch’s meeting with the Holy Father. In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Patriarch spoke of having had the good impression of speaking with “a brother”, considering him a “humble” man and “who has the gift of listening, and does not pretend to know everything.” The Patriarch again expressed his hope to see Pope Francis come to the land of salvation, confident that he will continue the diplomatic efforts of his predecessors to ensure that peace and justice come to Jerusalem. At the end of the meeting the Pope did joined the entire delegation for lunch at the Casa Santa Marta. The members of the Patriarchal delegation upon their return to the Holy Land will surely take with them the firm intention of telling their faithful, “the great love of the Pope for the Church that lives and prays in the places where Jesus Christ lived.”

Number of Christians halved since 2000

It is a message that resonates as an encouragement that comes from the heart and that comes at the right time to comfort the faithful of the Holy Land who have just learned from a study that the percentage of Christians in Palestine is now half of what it was 13 years ago, from 2 to 1 % between 2000 and 2013. Moreover Jerusalem, which had 27,000 Christians in 1948, saw their numbers decrease to almost 5,000. This is what the study of Professor Hanna Issa sent to Fides reveals. The author is a Palestinian Christian, a professor of international law and general secretary of the Christian-Muslim Committee for the protection of Jerusalem and the holy places. The decrease is largely due to the migration and of population growth rates much lower than those in the Muslim population.The study by Professor Issa indicates, according to Fides that, currently, Christians in the Palestinian Territories are 47,000 while 110,000 live in regions where the State of Israel was formed in 1948.

Christophe Lafontaine

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2013/04/17/the-holy-land-in-the-heart-of-the-pope/

Friday, April 26, 2013

Consequences of the Arab Spring

Christians Increasingly Under Pressure
By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, April 26, 2013 (Zenit.org) - The conflict in Syria continues and in other countries that underwent regime changes, such as Egypt, the fate of Christians remains a matter of great concern.

This week two Christian archbishops, the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were kidnapped by what Reuters, in an April 22 report, termed “a terrorist group" in the village of Kfar Dael.

In September last year Archbishop Ibrahim told Reuters that “Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have paid big sums for their release."

Initially reports came that the two archbishops had been released. Later, however, Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the Greek-Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, denied they had been released, Asia News reported April 24.

The very day of the kidnapping, April 22, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published a special report titled “Protecting and Promoting Religious Freedom in Syria.”

Syria has traditionally been a religiously diverse country of some 22 million people, the report observed. Sunni Muslims account for around 75% of the population, but there are substantial minorities of Alawites, Christians and Druzes.

The ongoing conflict “threatens Syria’s religious diversity, as members of the smallest minority communities are either fleeing the country or face an uncertain future in a post al-Assad Syria,” the report commented.

The commission’s report called upon both the United States and other countries to implement programs that support minority rights and religious freedom.

The U.S. agency admitted that conditions were certainly not ideal prior to the current uprising, commenting that “Syria offered a modicum of freedom of religion, including worship, particularly for Syria’s smallest religious minority communities, including Christians.”

“However, the government controlled the selection of Sunni Muslim imams and limited their religious freedoms,” the report noted.

Deepening hostility

The report also blamed the regime for a decades-long policy of repressing the Sunni majority and for deepening hostilities among the religious minorities
At the same time religious communities that have remained neutral during the violent uprisings are being seen by opposition forces as being supportive of the government.

“As these sectarian fissures deepen, it is increasingly likely that religious communities will be targeted not for their political allegiances, but solely for their religious affiliation,” USCIRF warned.

It is clear, USCIRF’s report stated, that “that sectarianism is increasing and religiously-motivated attacks are being perpetrated by the al-Assad regime and its proxies, as well as at times by opposition forces seeking his overthrow, resulting in severe violations of religious freedom.”

“These violations also threaten Syria’s religious diversity by increasing the likelihood of religiously-motivated violence and retaliation continuing in a post-al-Assad Syria, where religious minorities will be particularly vulnerable,” it warned.

Egypt is another country where Christians are under threat. There are fears that the newly approved constitution fails to protect the rights of Christians, the BBC reported on January 3.

An Egyptian mother and her seven children were given lengthy jail sentences for illegally changing their names on official documents, the news service Russia Today reported January 16.

The family wanted to revert to their Christian names following the death of their Muslim father.
Nadia Ali Mohamed was born Christian but converted to Islam when she married her husband Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, the report explained. When he died in 1991, she wanted to go back to being a Christian.

In 2004, after the family became Christians once more and replaced their Muslim names on their identity cards with Christian names. The family was sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating the laws regarding name changes.

Attacking buildings

Meanwhile Islamic groups continue to attack Christian buildings with little action by the police or security forces. On January 16 the Assyrian International News Agency reported that hundreds of Muslims destroyed a social services building belonging to the Coptic Church while chanting Islamic slogans. The building was located in the village of Fanous, in the Tamia district of Fayoum province, 130 KM south west of Cairo.

Earlier this month a mob attacked Cairo’s St Mark’s Coptic cathedral, throwing rocks and fire bombs, the New York Times reported on April 8.

“The police are not trying to protect us or do anything to stop the violence,” said Wael Eskandar, a Coptic Christian activist. “On the contrary, they are actively aiding the people in civilian clothes” attacking the Christians, he said according to the article in the New York Times.

The attack followed several days of conflict, which included a gunfight in which four Christians and one Muslim died.

The Coptic Pope Tawadros II accused President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, of failing to protect the cathedral in what a report published April 18 in the Washington Post said was “an unprecedented direct criticism.”

Tensions continue, with the Aljazeera news agency reporting on April 22 that 10 people have now died in recent weeks during the clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt.

In many Middle Eastern countries the outlook for Christians continues to be very troubling, but neither Western governments nor international institutions seem to consider it to be worth much attention.

Source:  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/consequences-of-the-arab-spring?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Anglican, Catholic Leaders Appeal for Peace in Syria

"Our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria"

London, (Zenit.org


Here is a joint statement from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Catholic archbishop of Westminster, and the leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, regarding the violence in Syria. The statement was released Thursday.

* * *

Since the very first days of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, we have prayed as we watched in horror and sorrow the escalating violence that has rent this country apart. We have grieved with all Syrians – with the families of each and every human life lost and with all communities whose neighbourhoods and livelihoods have suffered from escalating and pervasive violence.

And today, our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. The kidnapping this week of two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver while they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is another telling sign of the terrible circumstances that continue to engulf all Syrians..

We unreservedly support these Christian communities, rooted in and attached to the biblical lands, despite the many hardships. We respond to the call from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, urging churches worldwide to remain steadfast in the face of challenging realities and to bear witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.
We both continue to pray for a political solution to this tragic conflict that would stem the terrible violence and also empower all Syrians with their fundamental and inalienable freedoms. We also call for urgent humanitarian aid to reach all who are suffering. We pray that Syria can recapture its tradition of tolerance, rooted in faith and respect for faiths living side by side.

+ Justin Welby       
+ Vincent Nichols

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/anglican-catholic-leaders-appeal-for-peace-in-syria?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch



Justice and Only Justice

On April 6, some members of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ) attended a conference of the Friends of Sabeel at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, entitled, “Justice and Only Justice.” An international peace movement, the Sabeel organization was founded in 1989 by Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem as a grassroots effort to seek a just peace in the Holy Land in accordance with international law and UN resolutions. Its founder, Rev. Naim Ateek, in his book A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, writes that the Sabeel movement was “founded in the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of love and nonviolence.” 
Sabeel International works in over eleven countries cultivating the support of churches and institutions through co-sponsored educational conferences, pilgrimages and international gatherings in the Holy Land. It supports the call of the “Kairos Palestine” document to end Palestinian suffering. It supports the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, as well as other nonviolent projects that promote Israeli compliance with international law. It supports equal rights and access to such resources as land and water for all inhabitants of the region, based on principles of social, economic, and political justice. It supports an end to U.S. government policies that uphold and perpetuate the Israeli occupation and supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with international law and human rights.
One of the most riveting talks of the Sabeel conference was that of Jewish American author and activist, Dr. Mark Braverman. In his clarion call to all Christians, Jews, and people of faith and conscience to take action, he showed that the roots of the Kairos Document are in the Gospel, and that there is a clear parallel between the document’s call to action and that of the Good News spread by the disciples of Jesus, despite fierce oppression. Braverman asserted that both Christians and Jews around the world bear responsibility for their failure to act in face of ongoing injustices done to the Palestinians. He placed the onus on Christians to act in accordance with the Gospels and emulate the courage of first century Christians whose faith we inherited.
It is evident that the new bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, thinks along these same lines. On March 30, he urged members of all religions and those belonging to no church to unite to defend justice and peace and not allow one’s value to be reduced to "what he produces and what he consumes." He said members of all religions and even non-believers need to recognize their joint responsibility "to our world, to all of creation, which we have to love and protect. We must do much for the good of the poorest, the weak, and those who are suffering, to favor justice, promote reconciliation and build peace.”
On April 15, Pope Francis was paid an official visit by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, along with his delegation of bishops and priests from the Holy Land. During the visit, the focus of their conversation was the current struggle of the Christians of the Middle East and the growing wave of emigration. Noting the pope’s keen interest in their plight, Patriarch Twal says that his awareness is understandable, since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, home to many Catholics of Middle Eastern origin.
Members of EOHSJ should share the Holy Father’s concern for justice. On the weekend before Easter, during President Obama’s trip to the Holy Land, the Jerusalem newspaper, Al Quds published a letter to the U.S. president from Dr.Bernard Sabella. A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. Sabella is a friend of EOHSJ and in 2007 was a guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Western Lieutenancy in Tucson. His letter includes these words: “Compassion is not a question of financial aid…for which we are thankful - but of working to have justice and fairness applied. Some of our parents passed away with tears in their eyes as the United States and Europe, who champion human rights, have not delivered on the basic rights of our people…Our parents taught us that dignity is imperative to live as proud and free people. We will continue to live with dignity irrespective of the impediments placed on us by the Israeli occupation and its control and restrictive methods and measures…The unresolved problem of our refugee parents lives on and we carry their feeling of unfairness and injustice within us. Is it too much to expect from a person of your stature and from your nation, instilled with the principles of justice and fairness, to understand our pain and that of our parents?”
A good question for all members of EOHSJ to ponder…
(Compiled by Lady Da’ad Makhlouf, LHS; Rev. Sir Richard Van De Water, KHS; and Estee Chandler, JVP)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kidnapped Syrian bishops still missing, despite reports otherwise

The churches of two prominent Syrian Orthodox bishops reportedly kidnapped in northern Syria were unable to verify a claim that the pair had been released by their armed rebel captors.

By Staff writer / April 24, 2013 

This undated combo photo shows Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church (l.) and John Ibrahim of the Assyrian Orthodox Church (r.) who were kidnapped Monday, in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. The fate of two prominent Orthodox bishops remains uncertain, after their churches were unable to verify a claim that the pair had been released by their 'terrorist' captors.

The fate of two prominent Orthodox bishops reportedly kidnapped in northern Syria remains uncertain, after their churches were unable to verify a claim that the pair had been released by their "terrorist" captors.

BBC News reports that Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both leaders of their churches in Aleppo, are still missing and their families remain concerned about their well being. The two men were seized and their driver killed on Monday by an "armed terrorist group" according to Syrian state television, which routinely describes all rebels as terrorists.

The French Oeuvre d'Orient Christian association claimed yesterday that Bishop Yazigi and Bishop Ibrahim had been freed and returned to Aleppo, but members of Bishop Yazigi's archdiocese told Agence France-Presse that they had no evidence of that.

    "We have no new information," Ghassan Ward, a priest at the archdiocese, told AFP. "We can say that (as far as we know) they haven't been freed," he added of Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yaziji and Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim.

    ....Ward told AFP on Wednesday that there had been "no contact with them," adding that "efforts are continuing" to secure their release.

    "We are very worried," he said.

The Oeuvre d'Orient Christian association backed away from its claim on Wednesday, telling AFP that "no tangible proof of the release has been obtained. The situation remains unclear..."

According to a Syriac member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) rebel group, the bishops were grabbed by the gunmen while traveling to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey. Bishop Ibrahim has reportedly traveled the route several times before, Reuters reports.

Bishop Tony Yazigi, a relative of the kidnapped Bishop Boulos Yazigi, told the Associated Press that the gunmen are believed to be Chechen fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, the jihadist rebel group affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The bishops' kidnapping has been roundly condemned, reports AFP. Pope Francis on Wednesday called for the pair to "be returned quickly to their communities," while the SNC blamed the Assad regime for their kidnapping and said the rebel Free Syrian Army was not involved.

"Efforts ... to uncover the identities of the clerics' kidnappers and to liberate them indicate that the Syrian regime is responsible for the kidnapping, and [the] killing of Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim's driver," the SNC said.

Bishop Ibrahim told Reuters in September that the ongoing conflict in Syria had been devastating for Aleppo and its Christian population, which has fled the city in droves. "In its modern history Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times ... Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have paid big sums for their release," he said.

In an extensive look at Syria's Christian population, the BBC notes that the minority makes up about 10 percent of the country's 22 million people. Syria's Christians have "long been among Syria's elite," though "they are generally not seen to have any real power compared with their Alawite and Sunni colleagues," who make up most of the country's Muslim population.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2013/0424/Kidnapped-Syrian-bishops-still-missing-despite-reports-otherwise

The Diary of a Parish Priest of Aleppo

On Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

Aleppo, April 23, 2013 (Zenit.org) Robert Cheaib

A new escalation in the already untenable tension of the Syrian tragedy was reached Monday evening with the kidnapping of two bishops: Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo of the Syro-Orthodox, and Mar Boulos el-Yazji, Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo.

The bishops were released today. But a new burden of fear and of the unknown was laid on the already afflicted hearts of Syrian Christians.

What will happen after this new crossroads? ZENIT interviewed a priest who perseveres in his land and in his parish in Aleppo. To protect his safety and that of his relatives and of his community, the priest's interview is published anonymously. He himself said to us: “My name is not important. What is important is that the voice and witness, the suffering and the hope of Christians is proclaimed.”

We wished to hear from him about the echoes of daily life in the shadow of the unknown, in the shadow of what he described as “organized” and systematic “disorder.” What surprised us was to learn that despite the dark and black cloud that hovers over the Syrian situation, there is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that does not stem from naïve optimism, but from a look of faith rooted in the words – which have now become experience – of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? In fact, as he wrote: Because of you we are put to death daily, we are treated as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things we are more than victorious in virtue of Him who has loved us.”

This cry of hope is not aesthetic lyricism, but a daily reality that is translated into a conscious choice: to stay, not for the land but for the people of God who – as Saint Augustine says – are making their historic pilgrimage “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

ZENIT: The war has imposed an “emergency calendar.” As a priest, what is your daily program?

Father N: In the present situation, pastoral work as we always lived it is suspect. It has become an endeavor of humanitarian aid. The pastoral visits and the various activities have taken on a different style precisely to respond to the present emergency situation. For instance, with the collaboration of the Syrian Committee for Development, we have transformed two schools into a place of reception for Muslim refugees, precisely to show that the Church is at the service of man, of every man, regardless of his ethnic or religious membership.

As regards the works of charity and relief of suffering, we collaborate closely as a parish with the Red Cross and with Caritas.

In any case, we continue to celebrate Mass in areas that are still inhabited, and we notice an increase in the daily frequentation of the faithful. Christians have begun to seek hope more, which comes from Christ risen from the dead!

I must stress also that very many priests are committed in a stable way beside the laity in the service of material support in the parishes and dioceses.

ZENIT: Well known, unfortunately, is the fact that so many churches – also very ancient churches that are the patrimony of the whole of humanity – have been blown apart.

Father N: Thank God, our church has not received direct threats yet. Unfortunately, however, so many of our parishioners have been threatened and have had to leave the country or at least have had to move to less troubled areas.

All this notwithstanding, and above all given the proximity of the great feasts, car-bombs have been found near churches. Divine Providence has permitted our fellow citizens to notice the danger and so the bombs were disabled before their explosion.

ZENIT: What do the Christians of Aleppo expect from the Church?

Father N: People ask us questions daily, but I think that all agree on this point: should we leave the country or stay and keep the Christian presence in the Levant? I, and I say it with sincerity, advise those who can, to go away even if momentarily.

It’s true that we must witness Christ before the situation of daily chaos that we live. However, I don’t want this answer to be idealistic or abstract. The daily reality is tragic and we live in great disorder. We don’t know when we go out in the morning from our homes if we will return in the evening. Because of this, my answer to people is this: each one must place himself before his own conscience and weigh his choices, the situation of his family, and to make the choice dictated by discernment of the will of God.

We look at things with realism: what can the Church now offer, concretely, to Syrian Christians? We are more than grateful for the support of all Christians and particularly to Pope Francis with his repeated appeals in favor of his “beloved Syria.” We are also grateful for the aid that arrives. However, the truth remains that a basket of food aid isn’t sufficient. The Christians of Aleppo and of Syria want security, prospects, hope. Through aid, if we are not killed we can manage for a week, a month, perhaps even a year, and then? That’s why each one must give his own answer according to his conscience and his possibilities.

ZENIT: And why don’t you leave Syria?

Father N: First because Syria is my country. And I as a Christian belong to this nation. Second, and more important, for my priestly mission. Despite all the certainties and possibilities that I have to be able to leave the country (such as a resident permit in a foreign state, and the possibility of having a visa), Christ’s call remains for me as priest: to offer the smile of hope, not my personal smile or that of the ecclesiastical institutions, but that of Christ himself!

Only when there are no longer any Christians here, will I be ready to leave the country. What I feel within myself is this: if I were to leave the country, within my heart I would have a more bitter remorse than death, that of having left friends and children with whom I lived good times and that now, in the time of the storm, I abandoned.

ZENIT: The two bishops were released, but the fact of the kidnapping itself remains a grave question. What weight did it have on your spirit and that of your parishioners?

Father N: It was a great shock. It left us with a strong sense of dismay and anguish. The question we ask ourselves is this: if they violated these sacred places, what will be their next step? Then, the grave question is this: what meaning does this kidnapping have? What sense is there in kidnapping two bishops who are known for not having spared themselves in the most minimal way in seeking to lead the parties to the table of dialogue? What sense is there in kidnapping two persons whose objective is concord and peace?

Their kidnapping is an attack against dialogue and peace. This is the contradiction. This is the tragedy. It’s a stupid and arrogant gesture that does not embody any wisdom or policy, either social or religious.

ZENIT: In the face of all the mixture of horror, fear, courage, resistance and surrender, what word resounds the loudest?

Father N: The answer I give for the loudest word that remains is this: abide in Christ. This abiding is not based on weakness in face of the strength of the aggressor, but is built on daily Mass in which every day we are conformed to Christ crucified in the hope of resurrection. He is our daily food and our bulwark in this storm. In face of this desperation, we cry out: Christ is our hope.

[Translation by ZENIT]
(April 23, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/the-diary-of-a-parish-priest-of-aleppo?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Friday, April 19, 2013

Settlers raise Israeli flag over West Bank church

Published yesterday (updated) 19/04/2013 20:37
A monk stands next to graffiti sprayed on a wall at the entrance to
the Latrun Monastery near Jerusalem September 4, 2012.
(Reuters/Baz Ratner)

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers on Friday took over a
monastery in a village near Ramallah and raised an Israeli flag over the building.

Priest Aziz Raei told Ma'an that Israeli settlers used force to occupy the
monastery and its adjacent chapel in al-Taybeh, a Christian village in the
central West Bank.

They raised a flag over the monastery, which was built by a French monk.

Irish Times: Palestinian Christians dwindling in number due to political situation

Tue 16th April 2013

By Patsy McGarry

Senior Palestianian churchmen blame Israel, the US, and Germany

Since the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948 at least 35 per cent of Palestinian Christians had left the Holy Land, a senior Palestinian churchman said in Dublin yesterday. “It has been the greatest de-Christianising influence there since the Ottomans,” Fr Peter Madros of the Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarchate of Jerusalem said yesterday.

“In 1945 there were 32,000 Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, now it’s 10,000 to 11,000,” said Rev Dr Naim Stifan Ateek, Canon Emeritus of St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem.

Archbishop of Sebastia,Theodosios Atallah Hanna, of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchiate of Jerusalem, pointed out “we are different [Christian] denominations but all Palestinians. We’ve suffered a loss of freedom and injustice that has led to the exile of many Palestinians.”

He described the decline of the Palestinian Christian community to between 1 and 2 per cent of the population as “a disaster not only for Palestinian Christians but for all Palestinians.” The three churchmen are members of a delegation that arrived in Ireland a week ago on a trip sponsored by the Sadaka group. It supports “a peaceful settlement in Palestine/Israel based on the principles of democracy and justice, be that in two states or in one state.”

Fr Madros said “the unconditional support of America [for Israel] hurts us most. It wounds us most”.

Second-class citizens

This isolation was “an additional injustice” where Palestinian Christians were concerned, he said, “as nobody in the Holy Land can survive without support from abroad.”

Rev Dr Ateek said that within Israel Christians were being treated “as second-class citizens.”

At “almost at every level of life there is discrimination,” against Christians, he said. “The word ‘apartheid’ has been used by some Israeli activists,” he added. Fr Madros said “the Christian faith and its symbols is the most frequently attacked in the Israeli mass media”.

Since their arrival in Ireland the churchmen have had an informal meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs. They’ve also met Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, his Church of Ireland counterpart Archbishop Michael Jackson, and the Catholic Bishop of Down and Conor Noel Traenor.

Yesterday they met officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs where they discussed the labelling of goods produced by Jewish settlers in Palestine.

They have also been encouraging “an economic boycott of everything produced by the occupation”.

The delegation returns to Palestine tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Serious allegations following unrest in Cairo: “Police protected the attackers”

For immediate release
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Montreal, April 17, 2013 – Following attacks on a Christian funeral service in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, representatives of the Catholic Church in Egypt have made serious allegations against the authorities.
Father Rafik Greiche, media spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “When severe inter-religious unrest took place in Khusus on 6 April and four Christians lost their lives, Islamic fundamentalists threatened to attack the church in Khusus if a funeral service for the dead were to be held there. Therefore the service was transferred to the cathedral in Cairo. The police must have been aware of the situation. So why were the police not in front of the cathedral? They only arrived two hours later, and then they protected the attackers.”
On 7 April, at the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, there were attacks on Coptic Christians attending the funeral of their brethren who had died the previous day in Khasus near Cairo. Unknown persons attacked the mourners with stones and Molotov cocktails. Two people were killed and more than 90 injured. Speaking to ACN, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Asyut, Kyrillos Samaan, condemned the assault: “Nobody could have imagined that anybody would attack such an important symbol for all Egyptians as St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. It is shocking. But we will never learn the real motives for these attacks.”
A visible rapprochement
A few hours after the attacks, President Muhammad Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, declared his solidarity in a telephone call with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II. Father Greiche commented on this: “But what had the President done to protect the Christians?” Encouraging, in the words of Father Greiche, is the solidarity and sympathy of moderate Muslims: “All of our Muslim friends told us that the events make them feel ashamed. I recently visited Azhar University, the most important Sunni institution. Sheiks with whom we are in contact there assured us that such attacks are not compatible with Islam.” Father Greiche continued: “We are in permanent contact with the Protestant and Orthodox Churches. We find much agreement. That is a blessing.”
Especially significant, in the view of Father Greiche, is the rapprochement between the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches since the election of Tawadros II as the new Coptic Orthodox Patriarch at the beginning of November 2012: “The atmosphere between Catholics and Orthodox Copts has been completely transformed. Tawadros is very open. For example he attended the enthronement of the new Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac. That had never happened before. But in particular, the Coptic Pope intends to visit the Pope in Rome. There has been a real change here.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Church Leaders Beg for Peace in Syria

 As Much as 25% of Christian Population Displaced or Gone


London, (Zenit.org)

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham is begging for peace in Syria, saying the country’s “suffering has gone beyond all bounds."

The Damascus-based patriarch estimates that, since the conflict broke out two years ago, up to 400,000 Syrian Christians – possibly more than 25% of the total – are either displaced within the country or have fled abroad.

In the statement, which was sent today to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Patriarch Gregorios reports that since early 2011 more than 1,000 Christians have been killed, that “entire villages have been cleared of their Christian inhabitants” and that more than 40 churches and other Christian centers (schools, orphanages and care homes) lie damaged or destroyed.

He states that key to the country’s problems are chaos and insecurity, as well as an influx of “fundamentalist Islamists."

The patriarch declares that the threat to Christianity in Syria has wider implications for the religion’s future in the region because for decades the country has provided a refuge for faithful from Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.

He states that the conflict poses a severe threat to Muslims, pitting one Islamic tradition against another.
Patriarch Gregorios believes that, in spite of the worsening violence, peace remains possible and, in his statement, calls for action from leaders of Arab nations, Europe, the Americas, world organizations and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

He states: “We are sure that, despite our woes, all [of us] Syrians – government, political parties, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Alawites, Christians and Druze – are capable of engaging in dialogue…”
Saying that “there is no safe place left in Syria," he adds: “The whole of Syria has become a battlefield… Every aspect of democracy, human rights, freedom, secularism and citizenship is lost from view and no-one cares.”

He states: “Suffering has gone beyond all bounds. The crisis has mown down thousands upon thousands of soldiers, opponents, civilians, men, women, children, Muslim sheikhs and Christian priests.”
The patriarch’s comments coincide with remarks by fellow Damascus prelate Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar who, as reported by Fides news agency, said that Christians in Syria “must choose between two bitter chalices: to die or leave."

Archbishop Nassar stressed the threat to both Muslims and Christians from explosives, car bombs, snipers and the lack of medical care following a mass closure of hospitals.

In his statement, Patriarch Gregorios goes on to say that Christians are especially at risk from extremists stirring up riots against them.

He said Christians were particularly susceptible to losing their religious buildings to armed groups for use as “shields” in the conflict.

The patriarch states: “The future of Christians in Syria is threatened not by Muslims but by … chaos … and the infiltration of uncontrollable fanatical, fundamentalist groups.”

He refers to large numbers of Christians suddenly being forced to leave their homes and livelihoods adding: “[They have been] able to salvage little if anything.

“By and large, their houses and possessions have been looted, destroyed and damaged. All of this represents a loss of several million dollars.”

He states: “In the face of all these dangers, sufferings and misfortunes that affect all citizens, we wonder whether there can be any other way of speaking or acting than that of war, weapons, violence, hatred and revenge. We very much need a solution.”

As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need has provided ongoing emergency aid – food, shelter and medicine – both in Syria and in neighbouring countries, working through leading bishops in the region.

More requests for aid are being considered by the charity’s project coordinators.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/church-leaders-beg-for-peace-in-syria?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Palestinian Christians Address Heads of Churches

Your Beatitudes
Your Excellencies
and Dear Fathers
The following is a cry from Palestinian Christians who were in the City of Jerusalem on Good Friday.

This was published in Facebook this week with the following photos

Yusef Daher

To our Venerable Heads of Churches:

After having lived a hard experience in trying to attend  the celebration of Easter, this year, in the Holy Sepulchre, we feel compelled to address you this “angry” but sincere letter.

You keep telling us that we are the descendants of the Apostles, and of the first Christian community, the first who believed in Jesus Christ, the first who proclaimed  His Gospel to the world.

You tell us: that we have suffered so many persecutions, under various governments and military occupations along centuries. We are proud of you because you are still here perseverant in the land where Jesus Christ was born, taught, suffered, died and resurrected.
You tell us, come and pray as Jesus prayed.
You tell us all that, and on the day of Easter, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest of our Churches, we were forbidden to pray. And you know that. On the day of our Easter, we have lived a religious and human tragedy.

The celebrations of Easter, according to the Gregorian calendar, this year, was the worst that happened. Christians from Gaza were forbidden to reach Jerusalem. All Christians from all occupied Palestine were forced to ask for military permits in order to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem, and only 6 thousand permits were given. Then, all occupied Palestine was closed, and those who had permits could not use them. 

Military barriers were put in the Old city of Jerusalem, Christian Palestinians, from the Christian Quarter could not reach the Holy Sepulchre Church.

All the ways going to the Holy Sepulchre were closed.

All entrances to the Holy Sepulchre were closed.

The place before the Basilica was closed
Inside the Church were also military barriers, even around the “Stone of Anointment” and the “Sepulchre”. 

Christians were forbidden to reach freely to the Church. The soldiers agressed them.

Whose intention is it to forbid us to pray in the Holy Sepulchre?

The Church was full with Israeli soldiers with their weapons, guns, hats, eating sandwiches, joking, speaking with their mobile phones, hearing songs, laughing  loudly, crying on the faithful…

This church is the place of our prayer and not a military caserne. The word of Jesus apply on our situation: “My house is a place of prayer and you converted it to a military camp” (Cf Lc 19,45 sq). 

We ask all our Heads, the three Patriarachs, the Franciscan Custos, and all the Churches  to ask the police and the army not to close the entrances of the Church neither to be in the Church with their guns and impolite manners. Please take the necessary measures.

Say a word of truth to the Israeli Authorities. Let Christians reach freely their Church on the day of their feast.

Order cannot be used as pretext for all this tragedy and violation of the sacredness of our Holy Places and our Feasts.

We prayed hundreds of years in the Holy Sepulchre without all this heavy military and insolent presence. Tens of thousands celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem without such military presence. In Ramallah more Christians than in Jerusalem celebrate the Holy Fire and have no need to all this military “order”.

Our dear and venerable Heads of Churches, your silence kill us. Do you not see the soldiers and their guns, and their attitudes? Please say a word of truth. And let us pray on the day of our Easter in our Churches.

by Palestinian Christians † المسيحيين الفلسطينيين (Notes) on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 11:12am
سلام المسيح