Church Leaders Appeal for International Support
Leaders of various Christian Churches in the Holy Land, describing the difficulties of their present situation, appealed to the international community, “don’t leave us alone.”
This was the message the church leaders gave to an ecumenical delegation sent by the World Council of Churches, which visited the Holy Land last month.
The delegation, one of the council’s Living Letters teams, small international ecumenical groups that travel to locations worldwide where Christians struggle to overcome violence, spent a week meeting with the leaders of various churches.
They were informed about the many ways in which the churches in the region cooperate to render social services and advocate peace and justice.
In a press release on the council’s Web site, the delegation verified “that the scarce population of Palestinian Christians continues to diminish and life is ever more difficult for the Palestinian population that lives under Israel’s occupation; the work of the Churches is subjected to growing pressure and desperately needs support.”
Among the factors that contribute to the high rate of emigration of Palestinian Christians, the delegation reported: “the discriminatory housing policies, the demolition of Palestinian homes to make room for Israeli settlements, the high rate of unemployment and the violence of Israeli settlers.”
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, expressed the “bitter sense of impotence among Christians of Palestine,” after 60 years of occupation.
He added: “We continue to pray and we believe in the power of prayer. We place our hope in the new administration of the United States, but we need the support of countries of the whole world.”
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, Theophilus III, said that a strong Christian presence in the Holy Land is extremely important. He noted that his patriarchate is working with determination to promote reconciliation in the region.
The patriarch continued: “Christians need moral support, they need to know they are not alone. A very important contribution to the peace process is education, that is, initiatives that enable young people to get together, to make known to one another their respective religious symbols and eliminate prejudices.”
The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Munib Younan, stated: “I have traveled a lot around the world and it is the first time I see children without a smile. The children of Gaza cannot smile. Where is the conscience of the world?”
He affirmed that the time for negotiations has passed and that the hour has arrived for acting. He said: “The Churches must not be silent about this. They must raise their prophetic voices.
“Don’t leave us alone in our struggle. Help us to raise our voices to speak with greater clarity about justice, the partition of Jerusalem, the end of the occupation and a viable State for Palestinians, so that they can live next to the State of Israel.”