Palestinian pleas to the conferees in Bari: Support the Christian presence

Palestinian pleas to the conferees in Bari: Support the Christian presence

Head of the Presidential Committee for Church Affairs in Palestine Hanna Amireh has addressed the following message to Pope Francis as well as to the patriarchs and heads Eastern Churches meeting in Bari:

To His Holiness Pope Francis,
To our beloved Patriarchs and heads of our Eastern Churches,
Gathered in the city of Bari under the intercession of St. Nicholas

From Jerusalem, we greet you all in the name of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

We, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine, a group of believers from all the Churches in the Holy Land, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, pray, think and act according to our Christian faith, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which we have been living in for a long time and until today.

We ask God to bless your encounter and your work , with the hope to receive from your blessed encounter a message which will guide our daily endeavors towards justice and peace.

On this occasion, we raise the voice of an oppressed people, the Christians being also part of the oppressed people, with the hope to be heard and accompanied in our daily challenges.

We humbly present you with the attached letter, confident of your love for all your Christian children in Jerusalem and in the East. We accompany you with our prayers, our faith and our love.

In another development, the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine
Jerusalem addressed the following message to Pope Francis:

to His Holiness Pope Francis,
to our Patriarchs and heads of our Eastern Churches
On the occasion of the meeting in the city of Bari, Italy, that holds the holy relics of St. Nicolas, the patron saint of the East
July 7th 2018

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4: 8- 9).

For the past 100 years, the “little flock" of believers in the Holy Land, in occupied Palestine, has been living with the rest of the Palestinian people under oppression and tyranny. The tragedy began with the illegal Balfour Declaration of 1917, when the British government promised our homeland to be the national homeland for the Jewish people. In 1948, the great Nakba took place: Israeli terror, massacres of Palestinians, and forced displacement from hundreds of villages and cities.

In 1967, a new war took place, and Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Construction of Israeli settlements began to replace the Palestinian population with the Jewish population. Then the Apartheid Wall was built to isolate the Palestinians in cantons and allow the settlements to seize the land. We are still in this situation of military occupation and racist discrimination, apartheid in the full sense of the word.

We are still today under oppression. Our only sin is that we are living in our land and in our homes. This is because of a decision taken by Western empires,100 years ago, based on distorted theological concepts and , an erroneous interpretation of the Bible adopted by some Christian churches and leaders. They supported the political decision that sentenced us to death, in the name of God and in the name of the Bible.

Added to that, the Western world wanted us to pay the price, for the past persecution of the Jewish people by the Christian West!

After 100 years, our plight continues: refugees live in camps or are scattered throughout the world. Israeli soldiers are still either killing our children for the most futile reasons, or incarcerating them in detention centers, and our homes are being demolished or confiscated so that we are replaced by Jewish residents.

After 100 years there is no justice or equality in our land. Discrimination is increasing under occupation and systematic injustice. On the other hand, there is talk today about imposing the "deal of the century", a deal that contradicts the universal character of Jerusalem and abolishes our rights in it, by keeping the city under the control of one people and one religion, in violation, at the same time, of the nature of the holy city and international laws.

Today we are facing a real ordeal. Despite all the conferences and promises, negotiations since the 1990s until a year ago; despite the decisions of the United Nations that no one dares to implement, despite our appeals and the calls of church leaders and all the people of goodwill throughout the world, the Palestinian people are still deprived of their freedom and independence, and we continue to call out asking God and people to be just and hear our cry. We want only our freedom, to live on our land and in our Jerusalem. We want our independence.

As Patriarch Michel Sabbah recently said, from a humanitarian point of view, we have reached the "moment of the impossible". No hope whatever to see justice done in our land. Does the establishment of the State of Israel require our exclusion, the loss of our freedom and our existence?

But, we are still alive. We are still existing. We are still a people demanding their rights and independence in their land.

In 2007, we, local and international Christian groups launched the "Amman Call", which was heard and supported by many. In 2009, we launched the Kairos Palestine initiative, and we thank all those churches and justice supporters around the world who accompanied us in this initiative. However, such initiatives, like other initiatives aimed at ending the occupation, have not been able to build and achieve a just peace! On the contrary, we continue to witness a regression to the point of reaching, as we have said, the "moment of the impossible". Israel is still issuing laws to legitimize its injustices, and it wants to punish the Palestinians even in their nonviolent resistance. It wants to prevent any new effort of our partners and those who intend to pressure the Government of Israel to stop violating our rights and freedom.

Because of this legislation and the pretext of political "non-alignment", and the sensitivity of relations with Israel, the international "effort" to pressure Israel to sincerely embark on the path of peace has recently weakened. We remain alone, suffering from occupation and more racist discrimination, and moving away from a real solution to our just cause.

We see and say that the war in Jerusalem and in the Holy Land is the origin of war and destruction in the entire region. Our peace, that is, the just solution of the Palestinian question, leads to the peace of the entire region. The war in Jerusalem and in the region is the real threat to the Christian presence in Jerusalem and in the region. The recent attack on the churches in Jerusalem, both in taxation or legislation is a clear threat to the Christian existence, as are the infringements on Islamic holy places or any policy that would change the historical Status Quo in Jerusalem, which was the safety valve for coexistence and the guarantee of religious freedom in Jerusalem.

The National Coalition Appeal:

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,
In Your message on World Peace Day, January 1st 2017, you said: "The Church has committed itself to achieving nonviolent strategies to promote peace in many countries and has urged the most violent parties to make efforts to build a just and lasting peace. "(Message on World Peace Day 2017).

We thank Your Holiness, for everything you say and you are doing at this "impossible time" which we are still facing today. However, we will not lose hope for we are followers of the One who has risen from death, and we are the sons and daughters of the resurrection. But, we need you, and all people of good will, who reach out to us to save us of the injustice we are in. We appeal to Your Holiness and all our beloved Patriarchs, to hear our appeal and extend your hand to the oppressed.

• Some Christian theologians tell us and in the name of the word of God in the Bible that we must accept that Israel drives us out of our land and our homes, and we should not resist the injustice imposed upon us. Theologians use the Bible as a political weapon against us as we demand our freedom, our land and our homes. We are confident that you do not wish us to be the "victim" of the Bible, which in reality is the word of life for us and for all the peoples of the world.

• We thank you for rejecting all religious fanaticism and for not supporting the establishment of any religious state in our region, neither Jewish nor Islamic, nor Christian.

• We thank you for your position on Jerusalem, the Holy City, sacred for the three religions, calling for equal rights of the three religions, and of the two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli.

• We ask you to look into the Christian-Jewish religious dialogues that forget the status of the military occupation and the injustice we live in, or support and bless steps that support this occupation. The dialogues occur as if everything is fine in our holy land, while we are at war, and experience military occupation, death, bloodshed and racist discrimination.

• We thank you for guiding the pilgrims to the Holy Land through the many local and church related pilgrimage offices, directing their pilgrimage to be a time of prayer before God, and a time of prayer for the oppressed and for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land, while Israel is striving to divert the Christian "pilgrimage" into gaining political support by ignoring all the situation of injustice in the land.

• Israel imposes upon us a life under an apartheid system, which is defined as a racist state in accordance with international laws and UN-ESCWA reports. It hurts us to see countries and churches deal with our holy land, as if the situation is normal when in fact, it is not so. Our daily situation is Israeli military occupation, racist discrimination, daily killing and many prisoners. In our weakness, we look up to the churches of the world, to support us with their prophetic voice and to stand with what is just, right and human.
• We beseech you to accompany us with a word of truth in defense of our right and duty to resist the injustice imposed on us.

We call upon the states to put pressure on Israel in possible ways so that it respects and implements international laws, and enter seriously the path of justice and peace.
• We thank you for your support for all peace endeavors. We hope that your efforts for justice and peace will be intensified in these present critical times, to ensure the success of the last peaceful attempt to achieve a just and definitive peace, so that . we will not remain at the mercy of half-solutions that keep “war” in the souls instead of peace, and the Holy Land will remain a land of grievances, hatred and death.

• We thank you for your cooperation with the World Council of Churches to create a strategic framework and a Christian vision for the whole situation in order to develop effective programs and to support existing religious institutions to preserve the Palestinian Christian presence through better aid and an effective means of keeping Palestinian Christians in their land.

Finally, we want to reiterate that the best aid to Christians in the Holy Land is to work for a just and definitive peace. If we remain in the situation in which we are: Israeli military occupation, racist discrimination and conflict, our Christian presence will remain threatened..

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,
Your Beatitudes and Excellences, Heads of our Churches in the East,
We believe in the power of your prophetic voice, to support our faith, illuminate our path and to show us the correct Christian attitude in a conflict that has long been imposed upon us. We need your strength; you are our strength. We need your wisdom and love to support us in our efforts and our quest for freedom and for a decent Christian life in our Holy Land.
We are confident that you will hear our cry. With your prayers and your faith, there will be a New Jerusalem in which all the children of the Holy Land will enjoy equality, justice and peace. The Peace of Jerusalem will ensure peace and stability for the whole region.
We ask God to inspire and bless your encounter to achieve the Almighty’s will in the Eastern Churches, in Jerusalem and in the whole Middle East.

Our motto remains the words of the apostle Paul: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4: 8- 9).

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 11:16
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