The patriarch of Jerusalem is expressing his disappointment that oppression of religious minorities continues in the Holy Land, despite Benedict XVI’s call for peace.
Archbishop Fouad Twal affirmed this in a Sept. 8 address at Westminster Cathedral in London, reported Aid to the Church in Need.
The aid agency invited the prelate to visit the United Kingdom to raise awareness of the challenges being faced in the Middle East.
In his address, Archbishop Twal reported that emigration is diminishing the number of Christians in the Holy Land; they represent only 2% of the population today compared to 10% some 60 years ago.
The number of faithful in Jerusalem, he added, is expected to fall from some 10,000 today to little more than 5,000 in 2016.
The prelate stated that Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage in May to the Holy Land has not yet brought respite to the oppressed minorities.
The “ongoing discrimination within Israel threatens Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “From limiting movement and ignoring housing needs to taxation burdens and infringing on residency rights, Palestinian Christians do not know where to turn.”
The archbishop made particular mention of the wall that Israel built around the West Bank, which “has enclosed many Palestinians in ghetto-like areas where access to work, medical care, schooling and other basic services have been badly affected.”
He continued, “We have a new generation of Christians who cannot visit the holy places of their faith that are only a few kilometers from their place of residence.”
Archbishop Twal acknowledged the aid agency’s assistance, which is “supporting seminarians and religious sisters in Bethlehem, families who make olive wood devotional items and initiatives promoting interfaith cooperation.”
The prelate emphasized the need to help those in the Gaza Strip, who are living in a “drastic humanitarian crisis.”
He underlined the importance of “the five P’s: prayer, pilgrimage, pressure — lobbying and other political activism, projects, all leading toward peace.”
The archbishop pointed out, “If in 61 years we have not been able to find peace, this means that the methods we used were the wrong ones.”
“It seems that politicians are more afraid of peace than of war and they prefer to manage the conflict rather than solve it,” he added.
Archbishop Twal concluded by saying that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the new U.S. president, Barack Obama, who “seems much more aware than his predecessors of the fundamental errors of the administration in their attitude to the conflict.”