In front of the shutdown door of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

In front of the shutdown door of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

By Fr. Rif’at Bader

Following the oppressive and unfair measures undertaken by the Municipality of Jerusalem towards the Christian Churches as well as their institutions and properties, which are relevant to the imposition of illegal taxes, the patriarchs and the heads of the Churches in noble Jerusalem held a press conference. The press conference was not confined to mere issuance of a routine harsh statement. It, rather, adopted a first-of-its- kind historic decision represented in shutting down the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher indefinitely. Why?

First: It is a decision expressing protestation. It conveys to the world a message indicting that the Israeli-imposed restrictions weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem which is holy to all believers in God. The entire institutions and houses of worship affiliated with the Churches are places of worship, schools, hospitals and homes that house people with special needs as well as serve the poor and the vulnerable in the Palestinian society. These are institutions that do nor confine their serves to the Christians, but rather extend them as well to the Muslims, the civilized partners in the past, present and future.

Second: The Church's decision, despite its excruciating effect, would pressure Israel to back down from its unfair decisions by dealing a blow to the tourism sector which is controlled by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the affiliated tourism offices. This decision aimed at drawing the attention of the world to the gravity of the Israeli measures and the failure to cooperate in the field of religious tourism, which depends in the first place on the historic Churches.

Third: As Easter celebrations are approaching, the initiative undertaken by the heads of the Churches tells the world that the Palestinian people, with its Christians and Muslims, are one people and that the challenges posed by the occupier target the Christians as well as the Muslims. The initiative also indicates that this historical partnership is made up of suffering, blood, martyrdom and common aspiration for independence, freedom, and peace based on justice.

Fourth: The world and the Church officials in Jerusalem are aware of the fact that tightening the grip on churches comes in the aftermath of the Trump’s decision to transfer the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The heads of the Churches have undertaken a heroic, courageous, and historic stand by opposing the Israeli decision and adhering to the prevailing status quo, to the Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites, and to calling for respecting the charters and resolutions issued by the United Nations. Church leaders will not yield to any pressure since the arm-twisting policy is futile. With the past issue relevant to Al Aqsa Mosque and the current issue relevant to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a national as well as religious, universal and humanitarian issue emerges nowadays which indicates that Jerusalem neither belongs to a person nor to a group of people and that it cannot be monopolized.

In short, with eyes welling with tears, one stands before the shutdown door of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to tell the world: It is the time for solidarity in defense of the Arab identity of Jerusalem par excellence.

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