The Christian community of the Holy Land has been celebrating Holy fire Saturday for over a thousand years in the old City of Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In recent years, the Israeli occupation forces have been increasingly interfering with our participation in this tradition, even to the point of completely banning us from said celebrations as proven by the events that took place last year.
Tradition on this holy day consists partly of the local Christian community awaiting the Holy fire on the rooftop of the Holy Sepulcher, thereby allowing Christian pilgrims the chance to receive the holy light inside the church & in its courtyard.
With escalating political tension in Jerusalem this year, Arab Orthodox institutions along with other local churches, Jerusalemite dignitaries and national figures have take the initiative to restore our God-given right to free worship & to practice our faith & traditions.
Legal action was one of the routes toward achieving that goal, for which Advocate Mazen Qupty was appointed. Israeli authorities were demanded to respect and allow Christians free access to their churches to refrain from using the “blockade policies” and harassment of the Christian faithful.
Heads of churches were also approached about the severity of the situation under the current Israeli policies of “Judaization” of occupied Jerusalem, cleansing it and erasing any non-Jewish identity in the city, be it Christian or Muslim or Arab as a whole. The ramifications of such actions were emphasized as a bleak-looking ethnically-cleansed future occupied Jerusalem void of its Christian and Muslim inhabitants.
Unfortunately, and in view of the irresponsibility of the heads of churches & their failure to adopt an official stand that rises up to the graveness of the situation, the Arab Orthodox institutions found themselves as the sole bearers of the responsibility of defending Christian rights in our Holy City.
As such, Arab Orthodox institutions along with fellow Arab Christian Organizations in the Holy City of Jerusalem reiterate their unyielding positions on the following:
- We assert the the right of Palestinian Christians to free and safe access to all churches, mainly the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, especially on Holy Fire Saturday, one of the holiest days in Christendom, without being harassed by road blocks or persecuted by the Israeli Army or Police.
- We insist on upholding the “Status Quo” and the age old traditions while refusing any change enforced by the Israeli Authorities by virtue of their full control of our Holy City, regardless of the insistence of the Israeli occupying police to enforce its “special arrangements” & limitations on free movement of the faithful especially on Holy Fire Saturday.
- We demand that the heads of churches of the Holy City of Jerusalem adopt a serious stand and take firm measures to secure the most minimum of Palestinian Christian demands of freedom of worship and preserve our religious & historical rights of practicing our religious beliefs in our churches, Thereby preserving the Arab Christian presence in this Holy City.
- We encourage all the Christians faithful to participate in the celebration of Holy Fire Saturday in the City of Jerusalem and we insist on the importance of such participation according to our heritage & tradition. We further encourage all the faithful to participate in the parade of the Holy Fire along with the Union of Arab Orthodox Club Scouts of Jerusalem immediately after the appearance of the Holy Light, setting off from the Orthodox Patriarchate road towards the Christian Quarter and on to the roads of the Old City of Jerusalem as is customary every year.
We, Palestinian Christians of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all of Palestine wish the world a safe and peaceful Easter, especially to our faithful. We pray for true Christian unity and obtaining our rights, justice & peace.
Arab Orthodox Institutions
Arab Christian Organizations of Jerusalem