israel and palestine religion
So many in the ‘West’ forget that the native Christians of Israel are almost all Palestinians.
The numbers of Christians in the ‘Holy Land’ though is getting smaller all the time. This is not because of tensions with their Muslim neighbors but on account of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine that affects Christian and Muslim alike. The only difference is that Christians tend to find it easier to emigrate.
Palestinians add national meaning to Palm Sunday in Jerusalem
By Amira Hass
A Christian pilgrim holds a Polish national flag as others hold palm fronds during the traditional Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem’s old city, March 24, 2013. Photo by
The traditional Palm Sunday procession, marking the beginning of Easter week for Catholic and Protestant Christians, was tinged with Israeli-Palestinian politics in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Thousands of Christians gathered at noon in the courtyard of the Bethphage Greek Orthodox Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is said to have begun his entrance to Jerusalem five days before his crucifixion. Many carried palm or olive branches as they made their way to the Old City.
In Bethelehem, meanwhile, mostly Palestinian worshipers gathered in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, traditional site of Jesus’ birth, clutching olive branches and bouquets as they sung in praise.
For years the Jerusalem procession was attended mainly by non-Palestinian pilgrims, but in recent years the Christian communities in the West Bank and Gaza have made their presence felt, encouraged to do so by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
This year the Palestinians stressed their presence by carrying placards bearing the name of an Arab community, the distance of the community from Jerusalem and the word “Palestine.” Many waved small Palestinian flags, marching among groups of pilgrims from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy and other countries.
One banner, which caused Hebrew and Arab speakers to smile sadly, was a large replica of an entrance permit ostensibly issued by the Civil Administration that read: “The purpose of the permit: Christian holiday. Valid: March 19-May 11. Name: The Palestinian People. ID number: 1948.”
PLO officials hoped the banner would raise awareness among Christians regarding the difficulties Christian Palestinians typically encounter when wishing to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem.
According to the PLO officials, in many communities only half the requests by some of the 50,000 Palestinian Christians were approved, at most.
The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, however, said it rejected, on security grounds, only 192 of the 19,000 requests it received.
Al-Aqsa Mosque (‘the Farthest Mosque’) is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Having Jewish settlers, backed by the Israeli Defense Forces, violating this holy sanctuary is an act of brazen aggression that was surely calculated to raise the ire of Palestinian Muslims and the entire Muslim world!
What is Israel playing at? Are they trying to start another open conflagration? How would the State of Israel react if Palestinian Muslims stormed the ‘Wailing Wall’ and tried to defile it?
I expect that we will hear cries of outrage reverberating around the Muslim world. I fear that all we will hear from ‘the West’ is a deafening silence. This is surely the perfect opportunity for the US President to make a strong statement that shows he is genuinely concerned for the people of Palestine and for Muslim religious sensitivities, but what would it take to make this happen?
Illegal Settlers Storm Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Attacks Escalate
A group of illegal Israeli settlers trespassed into Al-Aqsa Sanctuary again on Sunday, flanked by Israeli soldiers. The extremist settlers stormed the sanctified area in small groups, some practicing Talmudic rituals in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
This latest incident reflects the escalation of attacks which violate Palestinian legal rights over the holy Sanctuary. Since the beginning of the year, there has been an alarming rise in the number of occasions Israeli forces, settlers and politicians have stormed the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary.
Following the public call by main stream Israeli Politician like Moshe Feiglin and Jeremy Gimpel, for the destruction of al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Israeli trespassers have become bolder and more audacious. A recent parade by over a hundred female Israeli soldiers at the Sanctuary was an unspoken threat to Palestinians. In continuing acts of aggression, scores of settlers accompanied by over a hundred soldiers have entered the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary. The Israeli state appears to be aiding and abetting extreme elements from Israeli society in violating the Palestinian rights over the land.
Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement from the pre-1948 Palestine, warned that Israel is trying to isolate Al-Aqsa Sanctuary from the Palestinians. Other steps have included demolishing the facades of a number of historical buildings in the Buraq Square adjoining the Aqsa Sanctuary. The Palestinians are calling for solidarity from the international community in defending the holy sanctuary.
Friends of Al-Aqsa is deeply concerned about these reports and this latest incident is a reminder of the clear and present danger the Al-Aqsa sanctuary faces. Being mindful of this aggression is the first step to preventing further trespasses and graver dangers posed to Al-Aqsa sanctuary by Israelis intent on its destruction. Now is the time for action – by lobbying your local MP and encouraging him/her to raise the issue of attacks on the Al-Aqsa sanctuary in Parliament.
read the rest of this article here: www.foa.org…
The following statement has come from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – a branch of the Catholic Church
Holy Land Coordination: Final Communiqué 2013
Since the Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination gathered in January 2012, the people in this region have lived through dark and dramatic events: conflict in Gaza and southern Israel; civil war in Syria, which has resulted in huge numbers of refugees pouring into other countries and putting an enormous strain on their resources; and increasing polarisation within Israel and Palestine. These developments have caused profound anxiety for all in this region, for the Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and particularly for the dwindling Christian population. This year we met Christian communities in Gaza, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Madaba and Zarqa. In the Cremisan Valley we heard about legal struggles to protect local people’s lands and religious institutions from the encroachment of the Security Barrier (“the wall”). We promise to continue urging our respective governments to act to prevent this injustice. We heard moving testimony from religious women involved in the care of migrant workers, trafficked persons and prisoners.
Our faith was enriched by the strength and fortitude of the people we met: those with whom we shared in a vibrant celebration of Mass in Zarqa in Jordan; those who care for the vulnerable, like the refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing terror and violence; those struggling in the face of oppression and insecurity across the countries that make up the Holy Land. We are inspired to promote a just peace and call upon Christian communities in our home countries and people of goodwill everywhere to support the work undertaken in this region to build a better future. Good examples are two agencies we visited: Catholic Relief Services in Gaza and the Caritas refugee programme in Jordan.
We are also called to recognise and tell others how faith in God brings light into the lives of people in the Holy Land. One of the ways in which this happens is the Church’s commitment to education, a tangible investment in the future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the University of Bethlehem, where we were struck by the stories from students, and the American University of Madaba in Jordan. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI called upon staff and students in the region to be builders of a just and peaceful society composed of peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds.
With the local Bishops, we encourage practical support for the vulnerable, the formation of young people and every effort for the promotion of peace. We encourage Christians to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land where they will experience the same warm hospitality we received. We shall work hard to persuade our respective governments to recognise the root causes of suffering in this land and to step
up their efforts for a just peace. We echo the call Pope Benedict made recently in his speech to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps: “Following Palestine’s recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful co-existence within the framework of two sovereign
states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace, not one of division”. In the words of one of the Psalms, which we prayed together each day: “for the peace of Jerusalem pray” (Psalm 122, v.6).
Signatories to the Final communiqué:
Archbishop Richard Smith – Edmonton, Canada
Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives – Urgell and Andorra, Spain
Bishop Gerald Kicanas – Tucson, USA
Bishop Stephan Ackermann – Trier, Germany
Bishop Michel Dubost – Evry, France
Bishop William Kenney – ComECE Representative
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Reykjavik,Nordic Bishops’ Conference
Father Roy writes:
Thanks to Cotton and Donna and the others on PIN’s team for all the good work they do within the Episcopal Church in the USA. The PIN reaches out to Episcopalians in the pews and recognizes that there’s potential for kinetic energy in TEC’s august House of Bishops.
Episcopalians/Anglicans are growing robust internationally, too. Bishop Riah (who’s on the mailing list) is enroute to Damascus with an International Delegation on a Peace Mission to Syria. The Mission will be led by Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, a Peace Activist from Ireland. The Peace Delegation will include our own Fr. Dave and Denning from Australia and the Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer from the UK. Stephen and Sami Joseph know each other.
Please read on. These are critical times we live in. There are ways we can help.
Diocese of North Carolina passes resolution urging Executive Council action on Palestine/Israel church policy
Palestine Israel Network Press Release
Winston-Salem, North Carolina – A week after long-time Episcopalian advocates for justice in Palestine released a letter urging the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council to better pursue equality in the Middle East, the Diocese of North Carolina passed a resolution advocating the same policies at its annual convention.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day letter – signed by church leaders like Edmond and Patti Browning, Bonnie Anderson, Desmond Tutu and eight others – can be read and supported at epfnational.org… Since the letter’s release more than 300 Episcopalians from 54 dioceses have supported the Episcopal Voices of Conscience Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council.
“As hopes for a peace with justice for the peoples of Palestine and Israel increasingly hang by a thread, it is critical that the Episcopal Church acts on its extensive and long-standing policies. These include not only interfaith dialogue and education, but the actions raised in the letter and our diocesan resolution,” said Donna Hicks, a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s (EPF) Palestine Israel Network (PIN) who was a delegate to the January 25-26 North Carolina diocesan convention.
The diocesan resolution – filed in December 2012 – calls on the Executive Council to accomplish two things directed by past General Convention resolutions by June 2013 – call on Congress to investigate whether U.S. funding to Israel is being used to deny basic rights of Palestinians living under occupation and determine what investments the Church holds that support the infrastructure of the Israeli Occupation. The full text of the North Carolina diocesan convention resolution also is on the EPF PIN website above.
Father Roy writes: More and more of the Churches in the US are "mobilizing" and standing strong and speaking out. Arthur Hagopian is a writer and journalist currently based in Australia. He has worked for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The highlights in his piece are mine. Peace, Roy
US religious leaders seek two-state solution for Palestine and Israel
By Arthur Hagopian
27 Jan 2013
Leading figures among the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in the US have joined other leaders of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious and lay organisations and institutions, pledging to mobilise support for peace in the Middle East.
Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Director of Ecumenical Affairs for Armenian Orthodox Church in America Father Mark Arey, the Director of the Office of Ecumenical Affairs for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, believe time is running out for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The loose umbrella of the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative (NILI) for Peace in the Middle East, which includes Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, warns that the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was waning, and urged "immediate, sustained US leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution."
Among the other leaders are Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA) and Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US.
The group believes the most viable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a two-state agreement that provides for a secure and recognised Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
"With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible," they said in a recently released statement.
Mourning the lives lost and shattered during the recent violence that gripped the region, the group warns that what had been seen, over the past years, "will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate."
As things stand now, "the status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians," they conceded, but stressed now is not the time for "another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace."
"The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilises the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict," the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East says.
The group urges strong and determined action, proposing a peace of the brave, because as people of faith, "we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible."
"We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new [US] Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides," the statement declares.
The signatories note that the US "has unique leverage and credibility in the region" and that no past progress towards peace has occurred in the Arab-Israeli conflict without US leadership, facilitation or staunch support.
"Once again, we need active, fair and firm US leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late," they add.
They pledge to mobilise the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the US, in the push for peace.
"Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement," the statement from the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East concludes.
* More on NILI: www.nili-mideastpeace.org…
© Arthur Hagopian is a writer and journalist currently based in Australia. He has worked for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.