Jerusalem is a place of Islamic-Christian sanctity

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Jerusalem is a place of Islamic-Christian sanctity

By Fr. Rif’at Bader

Over a period of two days, Al-Azhar organized an international conference in which representatives from 86 Arab and foreign countries, as well as Christian, Islamic, and moderate Jewish religious leaders participated. Since the main issue of the conference was Jerusalem, the Palestinian president delivered an opening speech following the speeches delivered by Grand Imam of al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb and Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church Tawadros II. The Palestinian delegation took the lion’s share with regards to the number of participants as well as the addresses delivered which were associated with tears.

The final statement read out by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar included an assertion on Palestinian Arab rights in Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state, and urging the US president to revoke his unilateral decision on noble Jerusalem. In practical terms, there are two things relevant to the final statement, namely preparing a teaching material on Jerusalem by Al-Azhar to be taught at its institutes and universities and declaring the year 2018 as a special year for Jerusalem.

What draws attention in this regard is the repeated reference to "the spirit of the Islamic-Christian cohesion in Jerusalem and abroad," as well as the reference made to the Holy City as being “a place of Islamic-Christian sanctity”. The conference focused on the participatory dimension between Muslims and Christians worldwide in their endeavor to jointly support Jerusalem in its capacity as a city that includes holy sites which belong to the Arab world with its Christian and Muslim population. It, furthermore, shed light on the "vibrant" Christians and Muslims of the world who "forcefully rose” in support of Jerusalem and staged massive silent candle-lit peaceful vigils, as has been the case in Amman, to express the unacceptability of having Jerusalem monopolized solely by one side.

We hoped that the final statement would underline the Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites, but this did not come true except in two addresses. The first one was by Minister of Awqaf Dr. Wa'el Arabiyat, who detailed the prominent role conducted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Jerusalem; while the second address was by me which stressed the need to maintain the status quo and the Hashemite custodianship of the city. Consequently, it is our duty to be further vibrant in demonstrating the importance of the historical, religious, and legitimate Hashemite custodianship of the sanctities.

What follows this conference? The expressed views should not merely be confined to Muslim and Christian Arabs. These views should be addressed in English to the whole world since a rightsholder should neither fear nor be hesitant, but rather be creative and innovative in launching initiatives designed to restore the Arab rights from the grip of the occupiers as well as from the world countries and leaders who lend support to them.

Furthermore, there should be an Arab consensus to visit Jerusalem and to support its steadfast people. A heated debate arose on this point with no common grounds concluded. There were parties that support such visits being an expression of fraternal ties with the Palestinian brethren, while other expressed opposition branding this as a normalization with Israel. I personally encourage such visits since they serve as mere pilgrimage to the holy sites, as they constitute a support for the steadfast people. There are some 6,450 Christian Arabs and 26,000 Muslim Arabs in the Old City of Jerusalem. Visiting them in their home and work places bolsters their steadfastness.

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