Thursday 26 October 2023

Statements by religious leaders in the Holy Land, regarding the 2023 war between Israel and Hamas

In this post I will try to collect signficant statements by local religious leaders regarding the current ongoing war between the Israeli military and Hamas, in Gaza. 

Despite an initial search, I have not found public written statements by Jewish or Muslim leaders. I searched specifically for statements by the two chief rabbis of Israel, and by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but to no avail. If I find them later, I will add them. 

Highlights in the statements are my own.

Português: Neste post tentarei reunir as declarações dos principais líderes religiosos da região, sobre a actual guerra entre as Forças Armadas de Israel e o Hamas, em Gaza. 

Apesar dos meus esforços, ainda não consegui encontrar declarações públicas de líderes muçulmanos e judeus. Procurei especificamente dos dois Rabinos-mor de Israel e do Grão-Mufti de Jerusalém, mas sem sucesso. Se os encontrar adicioná-los-ei. 

Os realces nos textos - que estão todos em inglês - são da minha responsabilidade.

  • Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
  • Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa
  • Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III 
  • Bishop of the Episcopal Church [Anglican] in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Hosam Naoum 

  • Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

    The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem unite in a call for peace and justice

    The Holy Land, a place sacred to countless millions around the world, is currently mired in violence and suffering due to the prolonged political conflict and the lamentable absence of justice and respect for human rights. We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, have time and again appealed for the importance of respecting the historic and legal Status Quo of 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.

    As custodians of the Christian faith, deeply rooted in the Holy Land, we stand in solidarity with the people of this region, who are enduring the devastating consequences of continued strife. Our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

    We unequivocally condemn any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or faith. Such actions go against the fundamental principles of humanity and the teachings of Christ, who implored us to "love your neighbour as yourself" {Mark 12:31).

    It is our fervent hope and prayer that all parties involved will heed this call for an immediate cessation of violence. We implore political leaders and authorities to engage in sincere dialogue, seeking lasting solutions that promote justice, peace, and reconciliation for the people of this land, who have endured the burdens of conflict for far too long.

    In our capacity as spiritual leaders, we extend our hands to all those who suffer, and we pray that the Almighty may grant comfort to the afflicted, strength to the weary, and wisdom to those in positions of authority. We call upon the international community to redouble its efforts to mediate a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, based on equal rights for all and on international legitimacy.

    Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33). In the spirit of this divine message, we implore all to work tirelessly towards an end to violence and the establishment of a just and lasting peace that will allow the Holy Land to be a beacon of hope, faith, and love for all.

    May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all during these challenging times.

    8/10/2023 Source

    Statement on the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza

    Today, an emergency committee of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem met for prayer and consultation over the grave humanitarian crisis that has befallen all of us. Our beloved Holy Land has changed dramatically over the past week. We are witnessing a new cycle of violence with an unjustifiable attack against all civilians. Tensions continue to rise and more innocent and vulnerable people are paying the ultimate price as the dramatic level of death and destruction in Gaza clearly show.

    The order to evacuate the north of Gaza and to ask 1.1 million people - including all the members of our Christian communities there - to relocate to the south within 24 hours will only deepen an already disastrous humanitarian catastrophe. Gaza’s entire population is being deprived of electricity, water, fuel supplies, food, and medicine. According to UN sources, 423,000 people have already been displaced because of the destruction of their homes.

    Many civilians in Gaza have said to us that there are no realistic ways in which they can evacuate to safety in any direction. We call upon the State of Israel, with the support of the International Community, to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza so that the thousands of innocent civilians may receive medical treatment and basic supplies.

    Moreover, we call upon all parties to deescalate this war in order to save innocent lives while still serving the cause of justice.

    Finally, in support of all those who have suffered in this war and of the families reeling from the violence, we call upon the people of our congregations and all those of goodwill around the world to observe a Day of Prayer and Fasting on Tuesday, October 17th.

    There is yet time to stop the hatred.

    13/10/2023 Source

    Mourning Civilian Victims of the Massacre in Gaza and Extending Solidarity to the Episcopal Diocese

    We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, join together in profound solidarity with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem as we bear witness to the criminal attack that unfolded within the precincts of the Al Ahli Anglican Episcopal Hospital in Gaza. This heart-wrenching crime occurred on a day when the Christian community had convened in earnest prayer, beseeching the heavens for peace, reconciliation, and the cessation of the war on Gaza.

    Drawing inspiration from the enduring human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity, we recall the verse from Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." This spirit is embodied in the face of the horrifying shattering of a sanctuary of compassion and healing in Gaza, culminating in the tragic loss of hundreds of innocent lives.

    In unyielding unity, we vehemently denounce this crime with our strongest condemnation. The initial reports of the Church hospital in Gaza tragedy have left us steeped in sorrow, for it represents a profound transgression against the very principles held by humanity. Hospitals, designated as sacred havens under international law, have been desecrated by Military Forces.

    We unequivocally declare this atrocity as an egregious crime, one demanding the severest censure and international accountability. We implore the global community to embrace its sacred duty to shield civilians and to ensure that such heinous transgressions are never again permitted.

    With heavy hearts, we acknowledge the profound loss of life at Al Ahli Anglican Episcopal Hospital. We hereby declare full solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have borne the unfathomable weight of this assault. As one united voice, we implore our friends, partners, and all people of goodwill to stand with us as we grieve the tragic results.

    Our prayers and support remain steadfast, and our collective voices rise as an impassioned chorus, calling for justice, peace, and the cessation of the suffering that has descended upon the people of Gaza.

    18/10/23 Source

    Jerusalem’s Christian Spiritual Leaders Host the Archbishop of Canterbury and Collectively Call for Restraint, De-escalation of Violence, and Protection of Civilians 

    “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).

    We, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, having gathered in prayer with Jerusalem’s honorable guest, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, join with him in expressing, in the strongest possible terms, our condemnation of the Israeli airstrikes that exploded without warning at the Orthodox Church compound of Saint Porphyrios in Gaza on the night of October 19th.

    These blasts led to the sudden and catastrophic collapse of two church halls around the scores of refugees, including women and children, sleeping within. Dozens found themselves instantly crushed beneath the rubble. Many were injured—some severely. At last count, eighteen have died, nine of whom were children.

    In condemning this attack against a sacred place of refuge, we cannot ignore that this is but the latest instance of innocent civilians being injured or killed as a result of missile strikes against other shelters of last resort. Among these are schools and hospitals where refugees had fled because their homes were demolished in the relentless bombing campaign waged against residential areas in Gaza over the past two weeks.

    Despite the devastation wrought upon our own and other social, religious, and humanitarian institutions, we, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches, nevertheless remain fully committed to fulfilling our sacred and moral duty of offering assistance, support, and refuge to those civilians who come to us in such desperate need. Even in the face of ceaseless military demands to evacuate our charitable institutions and houses of worship, we will not abandon this Christian mission, for there is literally no other safe place for these innocents to turn.

    As the above passage of Scripture reminds us, our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to minister to the most vulnerable. And we must do so not only in times of peace. The church must especially act as the church in times of war, for that is when human suffering is at its greatest.

    Yet we cannot accomplish this mission alone. We therefore call upon the international community to immediately enforce protections in Gaza for Sanctuaries of Refuge, such as hospitals, schools, and houses of worship. And we call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire so that food, water, and vital medical supplies can safely be delivered to the relief agencies ministering to the hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in Gaza, including those operated by our own churches.

    Finally, we call upon all warring parties to de-escalate the violence, cease from indiscriminately targeting civilians on all sides, and operate within the international rules of warfare. Only in this way, we believe, can the groundwork be laid for an eventual diplomatic consideration of longstanding grievances so that a just and lasting peace can finally be achieved throughout our beloved Holy Land—both in our time, and for generations to come.

    21/10/2023 Source

    Statement on the Celebration of Advent and Christmas in the Midst of the War

    Each year during the sacred seasons of Advent and Christmastide, our Christian communities throughout the Holy Land take great delight in their preparations for the commemoration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In addition to attendance in religious services, these celebrations have normally involved participation in numerous public festivities and the largescale display of brightly lit and expensive decorations as a means of expressing our joy at the approach and arrival of the Feast of the Nativity.

    But these are not normal times. Since the start of the War, there has been an atmosphere of sadness and pain. Thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, have died or suffered serious injuries. Many more grieve over the loss of their homes, their loved ones, or the uncertain fate of those dear to them. Throughout the region, even more have lost their work and are suffering from serious economic challenges. Yet despite our repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence, the war continues.

    Therefore, We, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, call upon our congregations to stand strong with those facing such afflictions by this year foregoing any unnecessarily festive activities. We likewise encourage our priests and the faithful to focus more on the spiritual meaning of Christmas in their pastoral activities and liturgical celebrations during this period, with all the focus directed at holding in our thoughts our brothers and sisters affected by this war and its consequences, and with fervent prayers for a just and lasting peace for our beloved Holy Land.

    Moreover, during this season of giving, we also invite the faithful to advocate, pray, and contribute generously as they are able for the relief of the victims of this war and for those in dire need, as well as to encourage others to join them in this mission of mercy.

    In these ways, we believe, we will be standing in support of those continuing to suffer—just as Christ did with us in his Incarnation, in order that all of God’s children might receive the hope of a New Jerusalem in the presence of the Almighty, where “death shall be no more, neither mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

    10/11/2023 (Source)

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    Latin Patriarch  Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa

    The cycle of violence that has killed numerous Palestinians and Israelis in the past months has exploded this morning, Saturday, 7 October, 2023.

    We witnessed to a sudden explosion of violence that is very concerning due to its extension and intensity. The operation launched from Gaza and the reaction of the Israeli Army are bringing us back to the worst periods of our recent history. The many causalities and tragedies, which both Palestinians and Israeli families have to deal with, will create more hatred and division, and will destroy any perspective of stability.

    We call on the international community, the religious leaders in the region and in the world, to make every effort in helping to de-escalate the situation, restore calm and work to guarantee the fundamental rights of people in the region.

    Unilateral declarations surrounding the status of religious sites and places of worship rattle religious sentiment and fuel even more hatred and extremism. It is therefore important to preserve the Status Quo in all the Holy Places in the Holy Land and in Jerusalem in particular.

    The continuing bloodshed and declarations of war remind us once again of the urgent need to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict in this land, which is called to be a land of justice, peace and reconciliation among peoples.

    We ask God to inspire world leaders in their intervention for the implementation of peace and concord so that Jerusalem may be a house of prayer for all peoples.

    7/10/2023 Source

     A call for prayer and fasting and peace

    Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord indeed give us His peace!

    The pain and dismay at what is happening is great. Once again we find ourselves in the midst of a political and military crisis. We have suddenly been catapulted into a sea of unprecedented violence. The hatred, which we have unfortunately already been experiencing for too long, will increase even more, and the ensuing spiral of violence will create more destruction. Everything seems to speak of death.

    Yet, in this time of sorrow and dismay, we do not want to remain helpless. We cannot let death and its sting (1 Cor 15:55) be the only word we hear.

    That is why we feel the need to pray, to turn our hearts to God the Father. Only in this way we can draw the strength and serenity needed to endure these hard times, by turning to Him, in prayer and intercession, to implore and cry out to God amidst this anguish.

    On behalf of all the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, I invite all parishes and religious communities to a day of fasting and prayer for peace and reconciliation.

    We ask that on Tuesday, October 17, everyone hold a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer. Let us organize prayer times with Eucharistic adoration and with the recitation of the Rosary to Our Blessed Virgin Mary. Although most probably in many parts of our dioceses circumstances will not permit large gatherings, it is possible to organize simple and sober common moments of prayer in parishes, religious communities, and families.

    This is the way we all come together despite everything, and unite collectively in prayer, to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice, and reconciliation.

    11/10/2023  Source

    Message to the youth of the Holy Land

    Dear brothers and sisters of the youth of Palestine, Galilee and Jordan, I come to you today with a very heavy heart, like all of us, because you are living very difficult and terrible days of hatred, violence and war. So at this moment we need to be united in prayer, first of all. When we are living difficult moments, the first thing we need is to have someone close to us, and if Jesus is a real presence in our life we want to have him really present and close to us. Prayer makes him close to us, and us close to him. This is what we need right now. Prayer is not going to change this terrible situation, but it gives light to our heart and our eyes, to see this situation not with hatred, but as human beings and Christians, to look at this with a heart where there is still, despite everything, space for hope

    So my prayer is that you can unite with all of us on this day of prayer, in order to always be united as Christians and in order to work together for the good of our community and of our beloved Holy Land.

    16/10/2023 Source

    Letter to the entire diocese

    We are going through one of the most difficult and painful periods in our recent times and history. For over two weeks now, we have been inundated with images of horrors, which have reawakened ancient traumas, opened new wounds, and made pain, frustration and anger explode within all of us. Much seems to speak of death and endless hatred. So many ‘whys’ overlap in our minds, adding to our sense of bewilderment.

    The whole world views this Holy Land of ours as a place that is a constant cause of wars and divisions. That is precisely why it was good that a few days ago, the whole world joined us with a day of prayer and fasting for peace. It was a beautiful view of the Holy Land and an important moment of unity with our Church. And that view is still there. Next October 27th, the Pope has called for a second day of prayer and fasting, so that our intercession may continue. It will be a day that we will celebrate with conviction. It is perhaps the main thing we Christians can do at this time: pray, do penance, intercede. For this, we thank the Holy Father from the bottom of our hearts.

    In all this uproar where the deafening noise of the bombs is mixed with the many voices of sorrow and the many conflicting feelings, I feel the need to share with you a word that has its origin in the Gospel of Jesus. That is the starting point which we set out from, and return to, time and time again: a word from the Gospel to help us live this tragic moment by uniting our feelings with those of Jesus.

    Looking to Jesus, of course, does not mean feeling exempt from the duty to speak, to denounce, to call out, as well as to console and encourage. As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, it is necessary to render “to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matt. 22:21). Looking to God, we therefore want, first of all, to render to Caesar what is his.

    My conscience and moral duty require me to state clearly that what happened on October 7th in southern Israel is in no way permissible and we cannot but condemn it. There is no reason for such an atrocity. Yes, we have a duty to state this and to denounce it. The use of violence is not compatible with the Gospel, and it does not lead to peace. The life of every human person has equal dignity before God, who created us all in His image.

    The same conscience, however, with a great burden on my heart, leads me to state with equal clarity today that this new cycle of violence has brought to Gaza over five thousand deaths, including many women and children, tens of thousands of wounded, neighborhoods razed to the ground, lack of medicine, lack of water and of basic necessities for over two million people. These are tragedies that cannot be understood and which we have a duty to denounce and condemn unreservedly. The continuous heavy bombardment that has been pounding Gaza for days will only cause more death and destruction and will only increase hatred and resentment. It will not solve any problem, but rather create new ones. It is time to stop this war, this senseless violence.

    It is only by ending decades of occupation and its tragic consequences, as well as giving a clear and secure national perspective to the Palestinian people that a serious peace process can begin. Unless this problem is solved at its root, there will never be the stability we all hope for. The tragedy of these days must lead us all, religious, political, civil society, international community, to a more serious commitment in this regard than what has been done so far. This is the only way to avoid other tragedies like the one we are experiencing now. We owe it to the many victims of these days and to those of years past. We do not have the right to leave this task to others.

    Yet, I cannot live this extremely painful time without looking upward, without looking to Christ, without the faith that enlightens my view and yours on what we are experiencing, without turning our thoughts to God. We need a Word to accompany us, to comfort and encourage us. We need it like the air we breathe.

    “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn. 16:33).

    We find ourselves on the eve of Jesus’ Passion. He addresses these words to His disciples, who will shortly be tossed about, as if in a storm, before His death. They will panic, scatter and flee, like sheep without a shepherd.

    Yet, this last word of Jesus is an encouragement. He does not say that He shall win, but that He has already won. Even in the turmoil to come, the disciples will be able to have peace. This is not a matter of theoretical irenic peace, nor of resignation to the fact that the world is evil, and we can do nothing to change it. Instead it is about having the assurance that precisely within all this evil, Jesus has already won. Despite the evil ravaging the world, Jesus has achieved a victory, and established a new reality, a new order, which after the resurrection will be assumed by the disciples who were reborn in the Spirit.

    It was on the cross that Jesus won: not with weapons, not with political power, not by great means, nor by imposing himself. The peace He speaks of has nothing to do with victory over others. He won the world by loving it. It is true that a new reality and a new order begin on the cross. The order and the reality of the one who gives his life out of love. With the Resurrection and the gift of the Spirit, that reality and that order belong to His disciples. To us. God’s answer to the question of why the righteous suffer, is not an explanation, but a Presence. It is Christ on the cross.

    It is on this that we stake our faith today. Jesus in that verse rightly speaks of courage. Such peace, such love, require great courage.

    To have the courage of love and peace here, today, means not allowing hatred, revenge, anger and pain to occupy all the space of our hearts, of our speech, of our thinking. It means making a personal commitment to justice, being able to affirm and denounce the painful truth of injustice and evil that surrounds us, without letting it pollute our relationships. It means being committed, being convinced that it is still worthwhile to do all we can for peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. Our speech must not be about death and closed doors. On the contrary, our words must be creative, lifegiving, they must give perspective and open horizons.

    It takes courage to be able to demand justice without spreading hatred. It takes courage to ask for mercy, to reject oppression, to promote equality without demanding uniformity, while remaining free. It takes courage today, even in our diocese and our communities, to maintain unity, to feel united to one another, even in the diversity of our opinions, sensitivities and visions.

    I want, and we want, to be part of this new order inaugurated by Christ. We want to ask God for that courage. We want to be victorious over the world, taking upon ourselves that same Cross, which is also ours, made of pain and love, of truth and fear, of injustice and gift, of cries and forgiveness.

    I pray for us all, and in particular for the small community of Gaza, which is suffering most of all. In particular, our thoughts go out to the 18 brothers and sisters who perished recently, and to their families whom we know personally. Their pain is great, and yet with every passing day, I realize that they are at peace. They are scared, shaken, upset, but with peace in their hearts. We are all with them, in prayer and concrete solidarity, thanking them for their beautiful witness.

    Finally, let us pray for all innocent victims. The suffering of the innocent before God has a precious and redemptive value because it is united with the redemptive suffering of Christ. May their suffering bring peace ever closer!

    We are approaching the solemnity of the Queen of Palestine, the patroness of our diocese. The shrine was erected during another time of war, and was chosen as a special place to pray for peace. In these days we will once again reconsecrate our Church and our land to the Queen of Palestine! I ask all churches around the world to join the Holy Father and to join us in prayer, and in the search for justice and peace.

    We will not be able to gather all together this year, because the situation does not allow it. But I am sure that the whole diocese will be united on that day in prayer and in solidarity for peace, not worldly peace, but the peace which Christ gives us.

    24/10/2023 Source

    Message to the population of Gaza

    Beloved sons and daughters in Gaza, I am addressing you today in these hard times, through this video wishing that I can soon join you like every year, to meet, pray, and exchange testimonies with you.

    What we are living now is very touching, it touches my heart, me personally and all of our community.

    But also I am very encouraged by your testimony, and the way you are living this terrible situation you are in. You remind me of what is written in the Gospel of Jesus, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. I am with you, your suffering and pain are my concern, and I dedicate all my time, in prayer first of all, but also in dialogue with all those responsible, in order to put an end to this situation as soon as possible and to support you as much as we can. You are not alone. All the Christian community in the Holy Land - not only the Holy Land, in the whole world - is with you, praying for you and supporting you. And now we have also 18 brothers and sisters who are in heaven praying for you and interceding for you, and they are our strength.

    Do not lose courage and hope, remember that the Lord is with you and we are with you. Remain strong. And one day, I am sure we will join together once again in Gaza, in prayer, in joy and in peace.

    25/10/2023 Source 

    General appeal

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,  

    May the Lord give you peace! 

    Charity and prayer animate the entire extended family of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, especially during times of extreme hardship. Many lives were saved and much suffering was alleviated thanks to your support in these recent appeals: Covid-19, Gaza 2021; the Beirut port blast; and the Syria and Turkey earthquake 

    In all of these situations we heard and answered the cry of the poor. Once again, their cry is heard in the Holy Land because of the war that has been raging now for over three weeks. 

    The current crisis has caused not only death, destruction and hunger in Gaza, but also high unemployment, especially in the Bethlehem area, and other social issues all over the Holy Land. We are facing a crisis that affects countless families from different religions and all our institutions including schools, hospitals and parishes. In Gaza, our material resources have been extended beyond our walls to include our suffering neighbors and to those who took refuge in other locations. The spirit of coordination was evident as local players also extended a helping hand. We share practically everything from food and water to medicines and supplies. We have learned in this difficult time that to rebuild the physical world we must build and protect trust between people. 

    Hundreds of people from all over the world have contacted us and have helped us to offer concrete support. We know what we need to do, as we have done with all our heart in previous crises, and we will undoubtedly do it again. Please help us to make a concrete difference and to build the necessary environment so that, in this society scarred by hatred, we may again sow the seeds of trust, of hope and of love. 

    Be assured of my prayer and gratitude for each of you! 

    In Christ, 

     + Pierbattista Card. Pizzaballa  

       Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem 

     3/11/2023 (See source for donation details)

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    Greek Orthodox Patriarch – Theophilos III

    The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expresses its strongest condemnation of the Israeli airstrike that have struck its church compound in the city of Gaza.

    The Patriarchate emphasizes that targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored.

    Despite the evident targeting of the facilities and shelters of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and other churches – including the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem Hospital, other schools, and social institutions – the Patriarchate, along with the other churches, remain committed to fulfilling its religious and moral duty in providing assistance, support, and refuge to those in need, amidst continuous Israeli demands to evacuate these institutions of civilians and the pressures exerted on the churches in this regard.

    The Patriarchate stresses that it will not abandon its religious and humanitarian duty, rooted in its Christian values, to provide all that is necessary in times of war and peace alike.

    19/10/2023 Source

    The Patriarchate of Jerusalem: Israeli Shelling of Orthodox Cultural Center Embodies Unjustifiable Targeting of Civilian Infrastructure in Gaza

    The Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement this morning, condemning the Israeli military’s bombardment of the Orthodox Cultural Center in the Tel Al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza earlier today. In this statement, the Patriarchate emphasizes that this attack represents a stark embodiment of Israel’s unwarranted determination to destroy the civil infrastructure and social service centers, as well as shelters for civilians trapped in the besieged enclave. The Patriarchate highlights that social, cultural, and sports centers have become vital providers of essential humanitarian services and safe havens for those affected by Israeli airstrikes targeting residential areas.

    The Patriarchate further expressed that this assault on the Orthodox Cultural Center and its service facilities constitutes a direct and unjustified attack on one of the pillars of culture and social services in Gaza.

    The Patriarchate also notes with grave concern that the Israeli military has targeted 19 places of worship, including mosques and churches, in Gaza during the past three weeks of the devastating conflict. Such attacks on civilians, particularly children, and the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, cannot be justified on rational or humanitarian grounds and are fundamentally at odds with even the most basic moral values.

    The Patriarchate reiterates its firm demand for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and pledges to continue its international efforts to achieve this goal as soon as possible.

    “In times of crisis and adversity, we turn to the words of Psalms 34:18, which remind us that ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ We pray for peace, justice, and a swift end to the suffering in Gaza,” said the Patriarchate’s statement.

    30/10/2023 Source

    Uk minister visits Patriarch Theophilos III amidst war on Gaza

    Lord Tariq Ahmad, Baron Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and the United Nations at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, met this morning with His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, at the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. The meeting was also attended by His Grace Husam Naoum, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and Secretary General of the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.

    The meeting took place against the grim backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the region. Lord Ahmad acknowledged the challenging circumstances, expressing both happiness at the visit and sadness about the ongoing war. He conveyed his deep concern about the atrocities and discussed ways to contribute to the cause of stability and calm. Lord Ahmad recognized the pivotal role that the Church, in collaboration with other religious institutions, plays in the Holy Land. He expressed a readiness to listen to the Patriarch’s insights and offered sympathy for the victims of the church bombings in Gaza.

    Patriarch Theophilus III, in response, recounted the unfortunate destruction of houses of worship, hospitals, community services centers, schools and residential neighborhoods in Gaza. He highlighted the collective effort of various churches to preserve the multi-cultural and multi-religious character of the Holy Places. Their goal is to ensure these sites remain places of worship, prayer, and reconciliation.

    The Patriarch spoke of the struggles confronting Christians in the Holy Land, facing oppression from radical Israeli groups who seek to expel them from the Holy Land. His Beatitude also stressed the importance of maintaining holy places not only as structures but as living communities, open to members of various religions, contributing to coexistence and peace. The Orthodox Christians actively work to maintain harmony in the holy land, referring to the agreement made in the 7th century between Patriarch Sophronios and Caliph Omar bin Khattab as a historical precedent for coexistence.

    The Patriarch underscored the historical role of churches as a safe zone during times of conflict, expressing deep concern for all war victims, including civilians, especially women and children suffering in Gaza.

    Lord Ahmad called for a rational and logical approach, transcending emotions, recognizing the sanctity of every human life. The leaders present at the meeting collectively prayed for the avoidance of further escalation aiming to safeguard the land, including Jordan, where the Hashemite King holds the custodianship of Muslim and Christian places in Jerusalem.

    Archbishop Husam Naoum of the Anglican also expressed gratitude for the visit, believing it will contribute to calming tensions and promoting peace. He decried the recent events in southern Israel and Gaza, emphasizing the role of religious heritage in finding a political solution. The Archbishop highlighted the importance of preserving the Status Quo of the Holy Places and raised the issue of Al Aqsa, as the holy place for Muslims.

    01/11/2023 (Source)

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    Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East  Hosam Naoum

    Church Unites in Prayer, Firmly Condemns Massacre at Hospital, and Grieves the Loss Of Hundreds of Innocent Civilians

    In a solemn observance of a global day of fasting and prayers for peace, reconciliation, and an end to the harrowing conflict, Christians stood united in the Holy Land. However, this day of reflection was marred by a brutal attack on our Al Ahli Anglican Episcopal Hospital in Gaza during the Israeli airstrikes there. Citing 2 Cor. 4:8-9a, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed," we reflect on the unwavering spirit in the face of adversity.

    In the strongest terms, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemns this atrocious attack that has transpired in the heart of Gaza. Initial reports suggest the loss of countless lives, a manifestation of what can only be described as a crime against humanity. Hospitals, by the tenets of international humanitarian law, are sanctuaries, yet this assault has transgressed those sacred boundaries. We heed the call of Archbishop Justin Welby, who implored for the safeguarding of medical facilities and the rescission of evacuation orders. Regrettably, Gaza remains bereft of safe havens.

    The devastation witnessed, coupled with the sacrilegious targeting of the church, strikes at the very core of human decency. We assert unequivocally that this is deserving international condemnation and retribution. An urgent appeal resonates for the international community to fulfill its duty in protecting civilians and ensuring that such inhumane horrific acts are not replicated.

    As we grieve the loss of countless souls who perished on our premises, we declare a day of mourning in all our churches and institutions. We beseech our friends, partners, and individuals of goodwill to stand in solidarity, mourning with us the heinous assault on our dedicated staff and vulnerable patients.

    17/10/2023 Source

    Joint Gaza Appeal Letter from the Most Rev’ds Hosam Naoum and Justin Welby, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and the Archbishop of Canterbury

    Dear Friends,

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    From Archbishop Hosam Naoum:

    Just over two weeks ago, the world was horrified at the sudden eruption of war in the Holy Land, resulting in hundreds of deaths, injuries, and displacements. Since that time, those numbers have multiplied into the thousands, as open hostilities have drastically escalated. Innocent civilians, especially women and children, have been caught in the deadly crossfire. As you have probably seen, a massive rocket blast exploded in the midst of our own Ahli Hospital in the heart of Gaza City, tragically killing or seriously wounding hundreds of refugees who had gathered there because they had no other place of shelter in which to go.

    Although Ahli’s buildings were heavily damaged, two nights later our devoted staff partially reopened the hospital. In doing this, they demonstrated the determination we have in the Diocese of Jerusalem to persevere in our Christian mission to serve others as though we were serving Christ himself (Matt 25:31-46). And this is the case not just for Gaza, but throughout all the Holy Land. Yet in order to accomplish this mission in the midst of a devastating war, we need to draw upon the strength of the larger Body of Christ. For we understand that when one member of the Body suffers, all parts suffer (1 Cor 12:26).

    And so, my sisters and brothers in Christ, I appeal to you to first of all to pray for our mission here, as well for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6). Secondly, advocate with your representatives for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, so that all who dwell within these lands can live in security. Finally, if you are able, support our ministries in Gaza, Palestine & Israel, and throughout the Diocese of Jerusalem by contributing financially through one of our international partners.

    Thank you for helping us continue the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in the very lands in which he himself ministered in his earthly life before offering up his life on our behalf and then rising again victorious from the grave, overcoming death and giving us hope for a new life. May God bless you.

    From Archbishop Justin Welby:

    As war devastates the Holy Land, we ask where Christ is to be found amid the cries of His children. When the lives of the innocent are at risk, we strain our eyes for the light of the One who offers healing, peace, and justice. In Gaza, the Al Ahli hospital, run by the Diocese of Jerusalem, is that light. Despite being hit by rocket fire last week, it is still providing critical care to the injured and anyone in need of medical attention. As health services become even more vital in Gaza, the work of the hospital becomes more difficult for urgent need of medications, equipment and fuel.

    Please, continue to pray for those who mourn, those who are in pain, and those who are in fear, and for those who are caring for the injured and bereaved. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that those who have looked after the sick have cared for Christ himself. I urge everyone, if they are able, to support the Al Ahli Hospital’s work caring for the wounded body of Jesus Christ and contribute to the Gaza Appeal.

    In Christ,

    The Most Reverend Hosam E. Naoum

    Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem

    The Most Reverend Justin Welby

    The Archbishop of Canterbury

    24/10/2023 Source

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