The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, has issued a statement expressing sadness and concern and condemning the violent attack in a Jerusalem synagogue Nov. 18 that left five people dead and many injured.
“There is a particular horror in any such attack which takes place at a place of worship. I condemn this violence unequivocally, as I do all violence between the peoples and communities of this region which has seen so much bloodshed in the name of religion,” wrote Tveit in a statement issued from the WCC headquarters in Geneva. “Violence, collective punishments and communal attacks can only further damage the prospects of peace and justice for all.” He went on to express concern about the escalating tensions in Jerusalem and urged all responsible authorities to take proactive steps to prevent any reprisals by extremist groups.
“The tensions and tragedies of this city, holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, are a reminder both of the need for all parties to continue to work intensively for a just peace in Israel and Palestine, and of the vital place that Jerusalem itself plays in that longed for peace,” said Tveit.
The attack was the latest in a series of violent incidents in which 11 Israelis have been killed in the last month.
“The frustration over the failing peace processes, as well as the increasing settlements and continued occupation, will require new initiatives that can overcome the obstacles to peace and build trust in a common future,” Tveit added.
The Anglican Church of Canada is a member of the WCC, which brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories, representing over 500 million Christians globally.
On Nov. 6, patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem, including Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, expressed their concern about the violence and rapidly deteriorating situation in Jerusalem.
Although they acknowledged that “acts of extremism are becoming a phenomenon both here in the Holy Land and in the wider region,” they expressed serious concern about recent activity on Haram al Sharif or Temple Mount, which has included both full closures and some limitation of access to Al Aqsa Mosque. The area is holy to Jews as the site of the first and second temple of ancient times and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.
The patriarchs condemned “threats of changes to the status of the Holy Sites from wherever they may come. The Holy Sites need constant watchful protection so that reasonable access to them can be maintained according to the prevailing Status Quo of all three Abrahamic faiths.”
They wrote that the “status quo” governing these sites “needs to be fully respected for the sake of the whole community. Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to unpredictable consequences which would be most unwelcome in the present delicate political climate.”
The statement was also signed by:
+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate