Jerusalem churches have appealed for peace in the wake of recent violent clashes in the city. Senior church leaders are deeply concerned by the confrontations and in particular the coordinated activity of radical groups that target religious minorities.
The clashes come at a particularly sensitive time as Muslims fast during the holy month of Ramadan and Orthodox Christians mark the holy week before Easter. The unrest coincided with restrictions on Muslims gathering to break fast outside Damascus Gate, and were exacerbated by inciteful demonstrations from radical groups.
“Jerusalem is holy to three religions, and believers of all these religions must be respected and enjoy freedom to observe their customs and traditions without fear or intimidation” His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III said in a statement. He called on “everyone to respect the sanctity of the holy month, maintain peace and safety for worshipers, and to enable freedom of worship and access to holy sites with respect and dignity, as guaranteed by international laws.” The Patriarch stressed the importance of “respecting the existing legal and historical status of Jerusalem and the Hashemite guardianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites.”
Those concerns were echoed by Anita Delhaas, Chief Executive of the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre, said
“for too long hateful ideologies that target religious minorities have been allowed to go unchecked, and the result is what have witnessed in Jerusalem recently. Frequent attacks on holy sites, threats and intimidation of worshipers, and mob behaviour in the city’s streets reflect alarming intolerance towards other religious communities. Those in positions of authority must take action to address this urgently and challenge the radical ideologies that seek to drive ancient communities out of the Holy Land.”