Christian communities in Holy Land need our help

Published September 1, 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Photo: Mark William Penny /

The Archbishop of Canterbury is appealing to Christians in the West to better support fragile Christian communities in the Holy Land and help stem the growing exodus of the faithful from the region of Christ’s birth, ministry and crucifixion.

At a recent international conference, he urged delegates to think not just of the sacred buildings and ancient sites of the Holy Land but of the people, whom he referred to as the “living stones.”

“The emigration of Christians from the region is now approaching a proportion where one can talk about a hemorrhaging of Christians from the area,” said Archbishop Rowan Williams in a video presentation to the conference.

The “Christians in the Holy Land Conference 2011” was jointly hosted by ArchbishopWilliams and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, at Lambeth Palace on July 18 and 19.
Nichols spoke about the importance of collaboration between the western and eastern Christian traditions and explained that the conference would hear from Jewish and Muslim spokespersons in seeking signs of hope for the common future in the Holy Land-a future of justice and peace.

Prior to the conference, Williams launched an appeal to Anglicans and other western Christians to support these Christian communities with prayer and funding. Although they are shrinking, they are vital to the region’s future, said Williams. We must come to terms with Christianity’s shared history with Judaism and Islam and the “family quarrel,” as some have termed it, among members of the three Abrahamic faiths, he said, reminding us that Christianity is not a European or North American religion but an “exotic Middle Eastern religion.”

All those who live in the Holy Land are “stewards of the sacred trust,” said the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani. “The time has come for the people of Jerusalem and the Holy Land to embrace a new future built on the solid foundation of faith.”

His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, stressed the importance of building trust on all sides. “The only solution to the conflict is the recognition of the inherent and fundamental right to live in dignity for all people in the Holy Land-Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, which supposes a two-state solution.”

The patriarch urged western Christians to “connect and be in communion with the Christians living in the Holy Land, share in their joys and suffering, bear their burdens with them.”

Hana Bendcowsky, director of Christian-Jewish relations at the Jerusalem Center, emphasized the need for dialogue in seeking a solution to the conflict, while Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of the Wi’am Center for Conflict Resolution in Bethlehem, stressed the importance of restorative justice rather than revenge.

Attending as the representative of the Armenian Orthodox patriarchate, Harry Hagopian read out a letter from Prince Hassan of Jordan, in which the prince offered his prayers and support for the conference.

To see videos of the speakers’ addresses, read transcripts of their remarks or make a donation to the Archbishop’s Friends of the Holy Land Appeal, go to


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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