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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan speaks about Arab Christians

Christians “do not live in the mentality of the ghetto, nor in the mentality of a minority complex, nor do we live as dhimmi (dependent) people,” said Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan.

“We have always been, as Arab Christians, building our societies, loyal to our countries and nationalities, bringing hope in hopeless situations,” he continued.

A Palestinian Christian from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Younan was speaking at the joint World Council of Churches and Middle East Council of Churches conference on the Christian presence and witness in the Middle East, on 22 May 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon.

In his speech, Younan said that the process of reform continues to be at the heart of every Arab and Middle Eastern Christian. Their hopes, he said, will not end until they see the Middle East transformed through the values that Arab Christians cherish.

He particularly stressed a stronger engagement between Christians and Muslims. “Dialogue is important in some contexts, but we need full engagement. We need engagement with all monotheistic faiths, especially Muslims,” he said.

“We must engage with our Muslim neighbors on the question of the proper relation between religion and state. We must advocate for equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities that can be secured by stable and secure states with reliable constitutions.”

“We advocate for these values for the sake of building pluralistic societies that respect all diversities. This is the reason we refuse today to continue to be divided into sects, or millets, or religious groups,” Younan continued. “This is not a political conversation alone, but a perspective established in our faith that all people are children of God.”

Younan acknowledged the vital role of the Middle East Council of Churches in developing a constructive “intra-Christian” engagement, including involvement of the Evangelical family.

Younan, who is also President of the Lutheran World Federation, said that churches in the Arab world need further engagement with the global church, especially in the West. “Sometimes we express disappointment with churches and church-related organisations in the West. We are tired of their speeches. We want action,” he said.

“It is true that Middle East churches bear responsibility to build this relationship. But there is also responsibility in the West to not abandon us in the Middle East,” he added.

In reference to the Israel Palestine conflict, Younan mentioned ecumenical initiatives like the WCC's Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum, as well as Kairos Palestine document, which he said helped to develop a common plan of action for how Christians can raise their voice against the occupation.

“One of the political expressions of this problem is the illegal Israeli occupation. Once this conflict is resolved, there will be many other conflicts that can be solved.”

“For this reason, we demand that Jerusalem, the mother of all religions and the city of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, must be on the agenda of every church in the Middle East and throughout the world,” stated Younan.

He concluded by saying that the current challenges in the Middle East are a “Kairos moment” for Christians. “It is a chance for us to remind the world that the conflicts in the Middle East are not religious. We know that extremism is not the monopoly of one religion alone and that more than just one people is capable of violence.”

“The future of Arab Christians is not in war or in occupation. The Arab Christian future is in our participation in our societies as an integral part of our peoples, witnessing in every consequence alongside all our neighbours,” added Younan.

Source:  http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18427 

An ecumenical and beautiful ‘procession of the Virgin’ in Haifa

Haifa article 
 HAIFA – After the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem, the procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin in Haifa is certainly the largest gathering of Christians in the Holy Land. The customary schedule was unsettled by “the unification of the Easter Feast.” The faithful repeatedly asked, “when will the ‘Procession of the Virgin’ in Haifa be held?” It finally took place on Sunday, May 19, the third Sunday of Easter according to the Julian calendar.

The event was officially sponsored by the Carmelite Order, organized by Fr. Abdo Abdo, a Carmelite and pastor of the Latin Carmel parish in Haifa. The procession was led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, accompanied by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Fr. Milton Altamirando, OCD, and twenty priests of all rites, the Orthodox pastor of Haifa, thousands of religious and lay faithful from the region of Galilee.  It was a very beautiful occasion, encouraged and recommended by the uniqueness of the Year of Faith, although some organizers regretted the absence of many more participants, probably due to the date change.

Someone noted, for example, the absence this year of the religious of Galilee, except for the Carmelites.  The seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate in Beit Jala, whose presence were normally well marked by their chants and prayers, apologized for their absence because of an unfortunate conflict in their program. The animation was provided this year by the Latin parish choir, the group ‘New life’ and the good singers from various communities.

The faithful of Palestine were not as numerous this year because “holiday permissions” (granted by Israel) had expired.  Scout groups were fewer as well, down from 13 to 8, due to the change in the date of the Easter Feast. The overall atmosphere was very good and festive. However, the procession moved slowly due to other parades and presentations.

The statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was mounted on a trolley (an old car without engine) and drawn by volunteers with four long ropes. These men and women, young and old, often walk bare-foot in penitence, are becoming more numerous. With the increasing number of people, the length of the ropes had to be extended to allow a more ‘draggers’ to participate. There is certainly a spirit of penitence, but as in the first procession of 1919, it is about joy and gratitude to the Lord and the Blessed Virgin for the dangers avoided during the First World War.  It has become a very popular traditional ritual.

At the end of the procession which lasted two hours and 45 minutes, Patriarch Twal addressed his thanks to all the organizers and participants, along with best wishes for the Easter season.  He then gave the blessing with the traditional relic of the cross.  The Patriarch also asked for special prayer for the two Syrian Bishops abducted in Aleppo, and for reconciliation, peace and unity in Syria.

After the religious program, a more or less spontaneous and popular event, “for Syria, against the war, occupation and imperialism” was organized in front of the Consulate General of France in Haifa, along the road that descends from Mount Carmel.

Source:  http://en.lpj.org/2013/05/24/an-ecumenical-and-beautiful-procession-of-the-virgin-in-haifa/

From our correspondents Haifa. Photos LZ   

Friday, May 24, 2013

Great celebration in the Jerusalem Filipino community

On Sunday, May 19, 2013, the Filipino community in Jerusalem celebrated not only Pentecost but also Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo in one splendid community day.


The two Filipino Catholic communities in Jerusalem, Good Shepherd and Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, came together with representatives from other Filipino communities in Tel Aviv and Rehovot to celebrate Pentecost, Santacruzan (a feast commemorating Saint Helen and the founding of the Cross that led to the foundation of the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulcher) and the Flores de Mayo (presentation of flowers to the Virgin Mary in May, the month of Mary).

The day began with a magnificent procession through Independence Park in Jerusalem. The numerous faithful followed the women dressed as various manifestations of Mary, Our Lady of Charity, our Lady of Peace, etc as well as Saint Helen, each of them accompanied by a male escort and a number of children dressed as angels. Winding its way through the Park, the procession made its way to the church of the Sisters of the Rosary where Mass was celebrated.

Father David Neuhaus, Latin Patriarchal Vicar and Filipino chaplain, celebrated the solemn Mass of Pentecost in a church packed with faithful. Concelebrating were a number of Salesians including Father Ric Fernando, responsible for the Good Shepherd community and Father ivo Coelho, rector of the Salesian community at Ratisbonne. In his homily, Father David underlined the gifts of the Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues, especially in the language of love, being sent as apostles of love into the world, manifesting unity and breathing the very life of God. He underlined the diversity of the Church in the Holy Land and asked the intercession of Blessed Mary Alphonsine Ghattas, who is buried in the church and is the foundress of the Sisters of the Rosary, an entirely local and Arab congregation, for the unity of the Christians in the Holy Land.

After Mass, a sumptuous celebration was held in the precincts of the convent of the Holy Rosary. Delicious Filipino food, traditional Filipino dances and singing as well as inspirational messages from the community’s religious and civil leadership were intertwined in an atmosphere of great joy and fraternity.

Source: Saint James Vicariate for Hebrews speaking Catholics in Israel

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Heads of Jordanian Churches Call for Release of Syrian Bishops

 Over 2,000 People March in Candlelit Procession in Amman

Amman, (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves 

Over two thousand people marched through the streets of in a candlelit procession praying for the release of two Syrian bishops who were abducted a month ago in Aleppo in Syria.

On April 22, Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek-Orthodox Bishop Boulos al-Yazigi were kidnapped by unknown abductors during a humanitarian mission. There has been no news on the whereabouts of the two prelates since their abduction
According to Fides News Agency, the March was attended by various leaders and representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities in Jordan. The procession  began at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and ended at the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem.

A statement signed by the bishops and heads of Churches condemning the kidnappings was read by Archbishop Maroun Laham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Calling the kidnappings of the two prelates “unacceptable”, the Heads of the Churches stated that the abduction raised concerns not only over their lives, but over the moral of the Syrian people in Aleppo.
“The bishops and Representatives of the Churches in Jordan hope that this silent candle march, prayers and calls will soften hearts and bring back the esteemed Bishops immediately,” the statement read.

“In this silent march, the bishops and representatives of the Churches in Jordan express solidarity with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, represented by His Beatitude Patriarch Youhanna 10th Yaziji  Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,  and the Syriac Orthodox Church represented by His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka IIwas, and call for prayer for the two sister churches and for all the churches in the world, whose leaderships never seized to call upon all people of conscience and good will in collaboration with all official, religious and civil authorities for the release of the esteemed Bishops.”

The representatives of the Churches of Jordan also called for restore peace in Syria as well as for respect for the Holy Sites in Palestine. They expressed their hope that renewed unity and solidarity would flourish between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

Renewing their call for the release of the two Bishop, the statement asked that they be “returned unharmed to their churches and society.”

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/heads-of-jordanian-churches-call-for-release-of-syrian-bishops

Thanks, Correction, and Complaint

Below is our response to a message from Dr. John D. Willis in which he offered comments on one of the webpages on the Al-Bushra website.
Dear Dr. Willis:

Thank you for your message and your observations.

The webpage to which you are referring, http://www.al-bushra.org/jerusalem1/statement.htm, now has a postscript with a link to the original article in the New York Times.


Al-Bushra Staff

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Thanks, Correction, and Complaint
From: "John D. Willis" <mediationpeacemaker@yahoo.com>
Date: Sat, May 18, 2013 9:49 am
To: "watch@al-bushra.org" <watch@al-bushra.org>

1.  I thank you for having on the website the 1919 NYT letter by the American Jews.
2.  You really should have ALL the text, because of this historic document's significance.
3.  Having compared your DELETIONS, it is clear whomever did that was NOT attempting to put the full Jewish side in its full and balanced light.  The CAPITALIZATIONS and the DELETIONS show bigotry, or at least someone so preoccupied with "using" historical material.

Do what you will.  I am a historian, support fair and just treatment of all people, and encourage your revision.

In Peace,
John D. Willis, PhD, President
Leadership Ethics Online
502-232-0506 (cell)
WebSite:  http://www.leadershipethicsonline.com/
WebBlog:  http://www.leadershipethicsonline.com/ethical-leader-blog/
Legal Notice
Unless otherwise noted, Leadership Ethics Online LLC holds and asserts our proprietary intellectual property rights to all data contained in this communication, as well as all the content, inclusive, appearing within the Internet links above--http://www.leadershipethicsonline.com/, and http://www.leadershipethicsonline.com/blog/--which includes, but is not restricted by, all programs and concepts designated by the "Copyright" symbol, as well as the written content, information, data, images, graphics, video clips, icons, sounds, and other proprietary materials contained herein or within the Internet links above.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Terra Sancta Museum to Open in Jerusalem

Museum Dedicated to Roots of Christianity Will be Unveiled in 2015

Jerusalem, (Zenit.org)


In 2015, in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Terra Sancta Museum – the only museum in the world dedicated to the roots of Christianity and the preservation of the Holy Places – will open: a permanent exhibit established by the Custody of the Holy Land to shed light on the history of this extraordinary land in which for millennia the destinies of many peoples living together in the places holy to the three great monotheistic religions have been mysteriously woven together.

In this special, delicate historical moment it is of fundamental importance to inform the whole world of the history of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, to encourage a greater familiarity with our roots, to contribute to the unity of the human family, and to send a message of peace throughout the world.

As the modern museum complex opens to the public, the Franciscans of the Custody intend to give prominence to the artistic, archaeological, and cultural heritage that has been preserved over the eight centuries they have been present in this land, protecting the sites where Jesus lived. For the Archaeological Museum, the guidingcriterion of the exhibit will be geographical-evangelical, determined in part by the history and nature of the archaeological excavations that will be documented, but also by the interest of the public which the Museum will serve. For the Historical Museum, the criterion will be historical-thematic, highlighting and documenting the historic missions of the Custody of the Holy Land and its relations with the European States.

To the innumerable pilgrims and visitors coming from all over the world, will be proposed a flexible cultural  itinerary, methodologically rigorous, and subdivided into three distinct “moments” around the Old City of Jerusalem and, in the future, extending to other sites in the Holy Land. A single exhibition complex composed of three museums (archaeological, multimedia, and historical) located on two sites a short distance from one another, near three principal destinations of pilgrims and tourists to Jerusalem (the Holy Sepulchre, the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount).

The founding institution is the Custody of the Holy Land, a religious fraternity (Friars Minor) that has custody of the sites of Redemption, together with the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a scientific institution for research and academic instruction of the Holy Scriptures and archaeology of biblical lands, with permanent seat in Jerusalem.

The scientific committee is led by Eugenio Alliata, director of the Archaeological Museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.Project Head and Promoter: ATS Pro Terra Sancta. Museological Direction: Gabriele Allevi Architectural and Museographical Planning: Studio GTRF Tortelli e Frassoni Architetti Associati.

In the coming months, a large exhibit will be held at the Palace of Versailles entitled The Treasury of the Holy Sepulchre (April 16 to July 14, 2013). Most of the objects presented by the Custody of the Holy Land will return to Jerusalem for permanent exhibition in the museum.

The progress of the work can be followed www.terrasanctamuseum.org beginning at the end of March 2013.
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For more information on the Terra Sancta Museum, go to: http://www.terrasanctamuseum.org/en

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Appeal concerning the two Bishops kidnapped in Syria

Logo Heads Local Churches in Jerusalem
We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, have been prayerfully following the ongoing violence, bloodshed, and conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011. Everyday tens or sometimes hundreds of people are killed because of the current conflict, and thousands are left without homes or shelters as they keep moving aimlessly in search of security, food and treatment.

A couple of weeks ago, two of our own Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch were kidnapped, and their driver was murdered, while they were delivering some humanitarian aid to some displaced families in the region. This horrific act of kidnapping two senior clergymen is yet another sign of the tragic situation in Syria, and an extremely dangerous and new phenomenon in our region.

Our hearts and minds go out to all the people of Syria, particularly our Christian communities and their spiritual leaders, who undergo suffering and violence and ill-treatment. And we call upon all people who are involved in the conflict to seek after peace and stability for the sake of all Syrians, and to end this cycle of violence and bloodshed. We also urge for the immediate release of Bishops Ibrahim and Yazigi and their safe return to their Churches and their faithful people.

We also join our voices with our sister Churches in Syria and call upon our ancient Christian communities to remain steadfast in their faith and hope, and we pray with them and for them at this time of turmoil and chaos for their safety and continuous presence and witness. As St. Paul writes to the Romans: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

The Heads of Churches of Jerusalem
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
+Patriarch Norhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Aba Fissiha Tsion, Locum Tenens of the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Melki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, concerning the Israeli police measures on Holy Saturday- May 2013

by Jerusalem Inter-church Centre (Notes) on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 10:43am

We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, watched with sorrowful hearts the horrific scenes of the brutal treatment of our clergy, people, and pilgrims in the Old City of Jerusalem during [Orthodox calendar] Holy Saturday last week. A day of joy and celebration was turned to great sorrow and pain for some of our faithful because they were ill-treated by some Israeli policemen who were present around the gates of the Old City and passages that lead to the Holy Sepulcher.

We understand the necessity and the importance of the presence of security forces to ensure order and stability, and for organizing the celebration of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Resurrection. Yet, it is not acceptable that under pretext of security and order, our clergy and people are indiscriminately and brutally beaten, and prevented from entering their churches, monasteries and convents.

We urge the Israeli authorities especially the Ministry of Interior and the police department in Jerusalem, to seriously consider our complaints, to hold responsibility and to condemn all acts of violence against our faithful and the clergy who were ill-treated by the police. We deplore that every year, the police measures are becoming tougher, and we expect that these accidents will not be repeated and the police should be more sensitive and respectful if they seek to protect and serve.

We also denounce all those who are blaming the churches and holding them responsible for the Israeli measures during Holy Week celebrations. On the contrary, the heads of churches in Jerusalem condemn all of these measures and violations of Christians’ rights to worship in their churches and Holy Sites.Therefore, we condemn all measures of closing the Old City and urge the Israeli authorities to allow full access to the Holy sites during Holy Week of both Church Calendars.

The Heads of Churches of Jerusalem

+Patriarch Theophilos III, GreekOrthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
+Patriarch Norhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Aba Fissiha Tsion,  Locum Tenensof the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Moussa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Bishop Suheil Dawani, E piscopa lChurch of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Melki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
 Source: https://www.facebook.com/notes/jerusalem-inter-church-centre/a-statement-from-the-patriarchs-and-heads-of-churches-in-jerusalem-concerning-th/10151418097900222

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Syrian Refugee Camp in Lebanon: Interviews with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and Father Dave Smith

Published on May 9, 2013
SBS story from 8th May 2013 - story about a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, interviews with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and Father Dave Smith

Declaration on Cremisan by the Salesian Middle East Province

logo-Salesien-lettre (1)                                    
Statement on the verdict of the Court regarding the Israeli separation wall in the Cremisan district.
Bethlehem, May 2, 2013

The Salesian Middle East Province strongly deplores the April 24, 2013 verdict of the Israeli Special Appeals Commission on the Cremisan district separation wall. The Commission approved the route of the wall according to plans submitted by the Israeli authorities, rejecting the position of the Salesian Province and families of the town of Beit Jala.

The Salesians of the Middle East continue to support the position of the Beit Jala families, remaining firm on their position on the issue of the wall, as they repeatedly expressed in previous press releases and also to the Israeli Court.

In summary:

1. The Salesians of the Middle East reject the imposition of a wall that divides people in the Holy Land and separates various religious institutions.

2. The Salesians petitioned the aforesaid Court that the separation wall not separate the properties of the Cremisan convent in the town of Beit Jala and that all properties of the Cremisan convent remain joined with the town of Beit Jala.

3. The Israeli authorities decided upon the entire route of the wall by unilateral decisions, regardless of the legal opinion on the construction of the wall issued by the International Court of Justice on July 9, 2004.

4. The Salesian Middle East Province expresses its full and continued solidarity with the Palestinian families in Beit Jala, who are penalized in their rights and deprived of their property due to the construction of the wall. Moreover, it expresses its intention to continue its support for the legal case of these families against the wall, reserving the right to take legal action to protect ownership which has not been defined in previous agreements between the two states.

With our prayer that peace and justice will come to the Holy Land.
Father Munir El Rai
Salesian Middle East Provincial

Source: http://en.lpj.org/2013/05/06/declaration-on-cremisan-by-the-salesian-middle-east-province/

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

US Bishops Reiterate Call for 2-State Solution in Israel Conflict

Decry Plan to Confiscate Convent Land


Washington, D.C., (Zenit.org)

The U.S. bishops support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and oppose policies that undermine a just resolution to the conflict, such as Israel's decision to re-route the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley, said the chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

In his May 6 letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said the proposal would harm the livelihood of 58 Christian families in the region.

He added, "The route will separate a Salesian monastery from a Salesian convent, and will separate both from their lands. The Salesian Convent and Primary School will be surrounded on three sides by the barrier that will confiscate most of the convent's lands."

Bishop Pates echoed the concern of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who spoke on behalf of all bishops in the Holy Land in saying that such moves only exacerbate tensions in the region.

"The Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict," wrote Bishop Pates. "As the wall moves and constricts more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future two-state resolution becomes less likely. Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence."
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On the Net:
Full text of Bishop Pates' letter: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/upload/2013-05-06-Letter-to-Sec-Kerry-on-Cremisan.pdf

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/us-bishops-reiterate-call-for-2-state-solution-in-israel-conflict?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Orthodox Holy Saturday in Jerusalem

May 4, 2013, was, according to the Orthodox calendar, Holy Saturday. Here local Orthodox Christians are attempting to enter Jerusalem at the New Gate, but they are blocked by Israeli soldiers. Israeli tourism sponsored tours of foreign pilgrims who were permitted to attend services whereas local Christians were not.

Palestinian Christians Struggle With Israeli Occupation

Worshipers carry a cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday during Holy Week in Jerusalem's Old City March 29, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Nir Elias)

By Father Johnny Abu Khalil for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

To be a Christian from the land of Jesus Christ is a blessing that not many can claim to share. But this blessing brings with it a daily struggle to preserve our traditions and uphold Christian practices. Faith has not disappeared, hope still guides our lives, but the lack of response to our plight makes many in our community wonder whether the world really cares about us. Israeli restrictions on our freedom of worship throughout the year should remind the world of its responsibility to help end oppression and occupation in the Holy Land.

Israeli politicians say one thing loud and clear: They want recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people.” The Palestinian people, Christians and Muslims, suffer on a daily basis from this concept of exclusivity, which goes entirely against our internationally recognized inalienable, civil and political rights. To someone who believes that Jerusalem is the exclusive property of Israel, refusal of entry to millions of Christian and Muslim Palestinians and denial of their right to pray perhaps seems acceptable. So far, no international action has been taken to ensure that this discriminatory policy by the occupying power is brought to an end.

Since the early 1990s, Israel has imposed a permit regime that prevents free movement by Palestinians within their own territory. To move around requires asking for special Israeli permits. All Palestinian churches must do this for their faithful ahead of every religious occasion, creating an unacceptable situation whereby Christians from Bethlehem, living just 10 km away from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, can spend years without being able to pray at this holy site, while an American or Israeli tourist can freely visit it at any time. This situation is turning our religious sites into museums to be visited by foreigners rather than places of worship for a vibrant local community that has been the caretaker of Christian sites, preserving them for centuries.

One should not be misled by the issue of permits. The question is not how many permits Palestinians are given every Easter or Christmas, but why we should have to apply for them at all simply in order to visit our own city and holy places that we have prayed at for centuries. Palestinians do not need a foreign occupation force to control their movements; all they need is a just peace that will lead to understanding and coexistence. This just peace can only begin by ending 46 years of Israeli occupation and colonization, leading to two sovereign and democratic states — Israel and Palestine — based on the 1967 border. Arrangements for Jerusalem should be made so that it serves as the capital of both states and spiritual centers for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

During Easter 2013, parishioners from ancient communities, including Jenin, Gaza and Birzeit, had to cancel their planned pilgrimage to Jerusalem due to the lack of Israeli permits. The descendants of the pastors who worshipped Jesus Christ, the people of Beit Sahour, managed to have one busload of pilgrims join in the Palm Sunday procession although the total number of Christians in that city is around 9,000. Many of those who received permits from Bethlehem or Ramallah did not make use of them because only one or two members of the family were granted access to Jerusalem. Easter is a time for family. It certainly cannot be celebrated without one’s spouse or children.

During the Good Friday procession, we witnessed how, barely a few meters in front of the Holy Sepulchre, Palestinian Christians were beaten by Israeli police, who were allowing foreign priests to make their way into the church, but not Palestinian Christians. At the same time, Israeli authorities were allowing groups of tourists, brought by Israeli tour operators, to access the church from the other side. Again, this can only be understood through the discriminatory eyes of one who thinks that Christianity in East Jerusalem is a source of income rather than one of spirituality. The latter is what the “eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people” means for the Palestinian people, Christians and Muslims.

The images of Holy Fire Saturday, during which priests, officials and community members were repressed, beaten and prevented from celebrating the Holy Fire inside Jerusalem’s Old City, succinctly reflects the situation under which we live. The occupation imposes a context of war on celebrations aimed at spreading peace, hope and justice.

No just and lasting solution to the situation in Israel and Palestine can be achieved without honoring the rights of everyone. Holy Land Christians are an integral part of the Palestinian people whose rights have been denied for decades. As a Palestinian Jerusalemite, as a priest and as head of a congregation outside the Holy City, I am a witness to the injustices that we have been suffering for decades. It is time to say enough is enough. It is time for a strong and clear approach that will ensure freedom of worship for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, as well as freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people.

Father Johnny Abu Khalil is a Roman Catholic priest and the head of a parish in Nablus, West Bank.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shining a light on Israel's military detention abuses

By George Bisharat, professor, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco - 04/29/13 10:50 AM ET 

At 2 am on April 5, eight heavily armed Israeli soldiers burst into the home of Mohammad Khaleq, a 14-year-old New Orleans honors student on a family visit to Silwad in the West Bank. Jolting Mohammad and his family awake, the soldiers arrested the youth, tied his hands, and threw him roughly onto the floor of a jeep. Later, Mohammad reports, the soldiers beat him and pushed him down, damaging his orthodontic braces on a rock.

He was shackled, blindfolded, handcuffed and held for 12 hours in Ofra, an Israeli settlement, before being transported to a police station. Two hours of incommunicado interrogation later, the boy admitted to charges of throwing rocks at Israeli cars. He says he confessed after Israeli interrogators promised him that was the only way to see his father.

Mohammad was eventually released after serving 14 days and paying a fine of about $800.

 His case fits a pattern chillingly familiar to many Palestinian youngsters, and one that is increasingly condemned.

A June 2012 report authored by nine distinguished British lawyers found Israel to be violating legal obligations to Palestinian children under both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In August 2012, an organization of Israeli soldiers called “Breaking the Silence” published testimonies by more than 30 troops describing a reign of terror against Palestinian youths, with beatings, intimidation, humiliation, verbal abuse, night-time arrests and injuries at the hands of Israeli forces. One soldier, while justifying arrests of children, marveled at a “kid who actually lay there on the ground, begging for his life, was actually nine years old... A loaded gun is pointed at him and he has to plead for mercy? This is something that scars him for life.”

Meanwhile, according to a UNICEF study published in February 2013,
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized.” Approximately 7,000 Palestinian juveniles, including some as young as 12, have been detained by Israeli forces in the last 10 years, and 236 are in Israeli prisons today. Many are convicted of throwing stones – an offense punishable under Israeli military law by up to 20 years imprisonment.

The military court system established by Israel soon after seizing the West Bank in 1967 was found in recent years to have a conviction rate of 99.74 percent. A special military juvenile court established in 2009 has failed to quell concerns over mistreatment of Palestinian youths. Few juveniles receive timely representation, and most admit guilt under coercive interrogation, often involving beatings or threats of sexual assault against them or other family members. Physical abuse of detainees of any age – torture – is absolutely barred under international law.

Ironically, the Jewish settlers commonly targeted by Palestinian stone-throwing youths inhabit settlements that, outside of Israel itself, are almost universally regarded as illegal. Jewish settler violence – including, per a 2013 U.N. report, 383 attacks causing injury to 169 Palestinians and damage to more than 8,000 olive trees – is rarely investigated. When charges are filed against Israelis, they are tried with the full protections of domestic Israeli law.

Sentences have often been lenient. None of this justifies Palestinian stone-throwing, which can be lethal. But a justice system that overlooks violence by Jews while crushing Palestinian defendants, including vulnerable and impressionable youths, will never command legitimacy. Instead it ensures a future generation of Palestinians who will know Israelis primarily through their cruelty. 

Mohammad was atypical as a U.S. citizen caught up in Israel’s military detention grinder. Yet his case should be a wake-up call for U.S. citizens. As Israel’s principal military and diplomatic protector in the world today, we neglect our ally’s misdeeds at the peril of being tarnished by association. Abusing children is a hard one to live down. 

Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and writes frequently on the Middle East.

Source: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/296673-shining-a-light-on-israels-military-dentention-abuses#ixzz2SC3IxNpy

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Commission of the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel held its 12th meeting in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – Communique of the bilateral commission meeting of the delegation of the Holy See’s commission for religious relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s delegation for relations with the Catholic Church (Jerusalem, April 29-30, 2013 ; Iyar 19-20; 5773).


The Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel held its 12th meeting in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem.  The meeting dedicated its first day to celebrating the memory of Pope John XXIII on the 50th anniversary of his death, with a conference on his historic role in transforming the attitude and teaching of the Catholic Church towards the Jewish people, based on mutual respect and affirmation of the eternal Covenant between God and Israel in keeping with the declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council.

Meeting shortly after the ascension of Pope Francis to the Papacy, the Commission noted his past well-known deep engagement and friendship with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires in particular. The Commission accordingly looks forward to the continuation and deepening of Catholic-Jewish relations during his Papacy, following on from the historic strides under his predecessors.

At this very time these are being epitomized in a particular way in the meeting taking place at the Vatican between Pope Francis and President Shimon Peres, who had sent a message of greeting to the Conference accordingly. This meeting in Rome was noted with satisfaction by the Commission.
The Commission reaffirmed the importance of educating our respective communities about the nature, substance and significance of these changes.

The Commission accordingly calls on the Israeli Ministry of Education, and on the Holy See’s Congregation for Catholic Education to explore ways and means by which the above-mentioned developments and their substance – together with respect for the identity and integrity of each other – can become an integral part of the required syllabus of educational institutions under their respective authorities.

The mutual respect and friendship that has been established between us over recent years, brings with it the responsibility not only to present each other the way each sees themselves; but also to defend and advance the wellbeing of each others’ community.

This requires us to stand up against prejudice and threats – in particular against Jews and Christians.  Especially where one community is the dominant ethos of a country and the other is a vulnerable minority, the responsibility on the former is even greater.

Accordingly, the Catholic delegation reaffirms the commitment of the Holy See to do its utmost to combat anti-Semitism everywhere, in keeping with the declaration Nostra Aetate, and especially where the dominant ethos is Catholic; and the delegation from the Chief Rabbinate reaffirms its resolve to do its utmost to promote the wellbeing of the Christian minority in the State of Israel.

In this regard, the Commission expresses its fervent hope that the protracted negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel to resolve all outstanding issues will be speedily resolved and ratified.

In conclusion the Bilateral Commission reaffirmed its trust in the Lord of Creation and History, giving thanks for its dialogue and common witness, and asking for His continued blessing on its endeavors.

 Source: http://en.lpj.org/2013/05/03/the-commission-of-the-holy-see-and-the-chief-rabbinate-of-israel-held-its-12th-meeting-in-jerusalem/

Francis Meets with President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon

Importance of Dialogue, Humanitarian Assistance for Syrian Refugees Among Topics Discussed

Pope Francis received President Michel Sleiman of Lebanon in audience today at the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The Lebanese President also met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State who was accompanied by the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
According to a communique released by the Holy See Press Office, the situation of the nation as well as the importance of dialogue and collaboration among ethnic and religious communities was discussed.

“Likewise, the common good, development, and the nation's stability were also considered. In that regard, best wishes were expressed for the formation of a new government that will have to face the important challenges in the national arena as well as in the international sphere,” the communique stated.

Also discussed was the continuing conflict in Syria and the surrounding regions. Many Syrian refugees fleeing the violence have sought safety in Lebanon. The Holy Father and the president of Lebanon spoke on the need for “greater humanitarian assistance , with the help of the international community” for both the countries receiving the refugees and those who are suffering as a result of the conflict.

“At the same time, the desire for a rapid and beneficial resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, evermore necessary for the peace and stability of the region, was expressed,” the communique stated.

According to several journalists who were present at the meeting, President Sleiman had given the Pope a 19th century icon which the Pope showed the journalists present.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-meets-with-president-michel-sleiman-of-lebanon?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


The dramatic deterioration of events in Syria is showing no sign of letting up. Each day increasingly grave news is being received from the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land who have remained there to take care of the population. “Last night more mortar bombs fell on the monastery causing considerable damage”, report the religious of Knayeh (a village along the border with Lebanon), “there is no longer any glass in the windows, the roofs have all been damaged, water is leaking everywhere, people are living in terror of the bombs which continue to fall.”

 The attacks, increasingly frequent and seemingly at random, are also crippling the more remote areas of the country. The gravity of the situation is reflected in the words of the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Pizzaballa, interviewed by the Franciscan Media Center: “In the Christian villages along the Orontes [River]”, Father Pizzaballa noted, “there is not much left, of the four thousand inhabitants of the village of Ghassanieh the parish priest has informed me that there is no longer anyone, only about ten people, and the empty houses have been occupied by the families of the rebels who are following along with them.” From Jerusalem the Custos is continuously, and with apprehension, following the evolution of the events as recounted to him by the Syrian brothers: “The picture that emerges is a very distressing one: everyone is shooting at everyone, no one is safe any longer, it’s difficult to say if they are aiming at churches or not…what we know is that they are firing, and that these bombs fall all around.

In the towns hit by the civil war there still remain some who are ceaselessly aiding the poorest, those few who have not managed to escape: “Inside those who are able to do something are doing what they can, helping in various ways, particularly with basic needs. The Jesuits for example have a special dining hall that is feeding thousands of families every day, and the friars are dealing with many displaced families. Everyone is doing all that is possible.” But each day it becomes more difficult. In the face of this picture of fear and confusion the Custos of the Holy Land continues to direct the attention of the world to this suffering people: “In addition to prayer I ask all those who can to send help. Not basic supplies – this will not help since they won’t be able to enter the country – but money to buy (if need be on the “unofficial” market) whatever is necessary to allow countless families to survive, particularly the poorest ones”.

Help us to support the Syrian people and ensure that food and medicines arrive, and to give concrete support to all the friars and religious living in Syria so that they can continue to represent a sign of hope to all.

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Video produced by the Franciscan Media Center

Source: http://www.proterrasancta.org/2013/04/23/the-custos-of-the-holy-lands-appeal-emergency-syria/

Video: President Simon Peres visits the Vatican

Source: JewishNewsOne


Pope accepts invite to Israel, urges peace talks

By Philip Pullella

 Pope Francis (R) greets Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican, April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Ettore Ferrari/Pool

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks and make "courageous decisions" to bring peace after his first meeting with Israel's President Shimon Peres on Tuesday and accepted an invitation to visit the Holy Land.

The two discussed the civil war in Syria, tensions in Iran and the scourge of anti-Semitism during half an hour of private talks in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

The pope hoped for "a speedy resumption of negotiations" to reach an agreement that respected the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, the Vatican said.

Peres told the pope he believed "there is a chance" to open negotiations and called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "a genuine partner for peace", an Israeli statement added.

U.S.-sponsored negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2010 over a dispute about Israeli settlements in occupied territories.

"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 the talks.

The pope accepted the invitation "with willingness and joy", a Vatican spokesman said, but there was no indication when a trip would be made.

A statement from Peres said he and the pope discussed anti-Semitism and quoted the pope as telling Peres: "Anti-Semitism goes against Christianity - as Pope I will not tolerate any expression of anti-Semitism".

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, has focused on building up relations with Jewish leaders and, when he was archbishop, wrote a book with an Argentine rabbi, Abraham Skorka.

The Catholic Church's relations with Jews were revolutionized in 1965 by a Second Vatican Council document that repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.

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

Peres asked Francis "to pray for all of us" and told the pope 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.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/pope-accepts-invite-israel-urges-peace-talks-183846091.html