Michael Sellors, Anglican Dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem
Church leaders in the Holy Land have condemned “provocative actions” by Israeli politicians and the use of force by the military to put down the current Palestinian uprising. The leading Catholic prelate said the recent violence draws attention to Palestinian claims for a sovereign state, which, he added, should be granted.
Representatives of various Christian churches agreed that the clashes which have claimed nearly 100 lives were sparked by the visit of Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, to a site in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, holy to both Muslims and Jews.
To Muslims, it is the Haram as-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary, home to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina. To Jews, it is the Temple Mount, site of their holy temples in biblical times and the most sacred place in the Jewish world.
The Anglican Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, Michael Sellors, said it was wrong for Mr. Sharon to visit the site.
Mr. Sellors added that despite the violence there was still hope for reconciliation between Arabs and Jews. “I still believe that there is a groundswell of opinion among ordinary people who want to live at peace, but that can be only so when we have mutual respect.”
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican bishop in Jerusalem issued an angry letter to the rest of the Anglican Communion in which he said his diocese is “distressed by the current state of affairs in our Land of the Holy One.”
Bishop Riah said the people of the diocese extend “condolences to all the bereaved families and our prayers for recovery and healing to the thousands of victims and their families who have been injured in body, mind and spirit.”
At the same time, he continued, “we would want to register our profound disappointment and dismay at the way in which the Israeli leadership has allowed this situation to deteriorate rapidly.”
Bishop Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Palestine and Jordan, said that both sides must refrain from acts which could incite violence. “We Christian leaders are against any provocative actions. ?Neither provocation nor violence will bring just peace.”
A committee of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), which includes major churches in the region, has condemned Israel’s military actions and the policy of “apartheid” against Palestinians. MECC’s committee for Palestinian refugees said that Israel’s policies and actions were destroying prospects for peace and harmony in the region, putting at risk the security and stability of the Middle East.