Religious Leaders in Jerusalem Issue Urgent Plea for Peace and Prayer

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There is war in the Holy Land again. Many years ago, a priest friend told me that if I waited until the Holy Land was peaceful to visit, I would never go. While historians have documented a period of relative peace around the birth of Christ, since then there has been a war in some regions, often the same area of the world Christ considered home.

While the protagonists of the Jewish and Islamic sides of this conflict argue, the survival of the Christian presence in the cradle of Christianity is often ignored. Wars have consequences. Some estimate that half of the Christians in Iraq and Syria have fled the region since the Second Gulf War and the Syrian civil war.

About 180,000 Christians live in Israel. Most people in Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, are Arabs and Palestinians. As part of a small group, Christians need peace and stability to survive. This war will not help.

In Israel, the “Status Quo”, or unwritten rule, states that religious groups are not allowed to disturb the status quo at holy sites protected by different religious groups. Even the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which includes Calvary’s Tomb and the Tomb of Christ is run by a consortium. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is also managed through a consortium. The key to the church is traditionally in the possession of a Muslim Arab family to avoid disputes among the Christians.

The Patriarchs of Jerusalem and the Heads of Churches have jointly issued a call for prayer and peace:

The Holy Land is a sacred place for millions of people around the globe. However, it is mired in violence, suffering, and injustice due to the political conflict, and the lack of justice, and respect, for human rights. As Patriarchs, Heads of Churches, and Patriarchs in Jerusalem we have repeatedly urged the respect of the legal and historic Status Quo for the holy shrines. In these trying times, we come together to raise our voices in unity, echoing the divine message of peace and love for all humanity.

We stand in solidarity with people in this region who are suffering the consequences of ongoing conflict.

Based on Jesus Christ’s teachings, our faith compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and aggressive activities that harm both Palestinians and Israeli civilians.

We condemn all acts of violence against civilians regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. These actions are contrary to the basic principles of humanity, and Christ’s teachings that “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12.31).

We hope and pray that all parties will immediately cease violence. In a sincere dialogue with political leaders, we urge them to find lasting solutions for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

We pray that the grace of Jesus Christ, God’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s communion be with all of us during these difficult times.

–The Patriarchs, Heads of Churches

“We ask God to inspire the world leaders to act in a way that promotes peace and harmony so that Jerusalem can be a place of prayer for everyone. “