The Little Petra Hotel, located at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem The Little Petra Hotel, located at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem 

Christian leaders in Jerusalem condemn surge of violence in Holy Land

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem decry recent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians and the occupation of the “Little Petra Hotel” by Jewish radicals, saying Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land should show mutual respect.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem have strongly condemned the “acts of indiscriminate violence” leading to violent clashes that have been occurring in various locations of the Holy Land over the past two weeks.

The latest incident happened on 2 April, when Israeli security forces killed three Islamic Jihad militants during a raid in the West Bank. It came amid growing  tensions ahead of the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, that has seen a surge of violence, leaving over 12 people dead and many wounded.

In the same period last year clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem led to 11 days of devastating conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Islamist rulers Hamas. 

In a statement released on April 2, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem expressed their condolences to the families of the victims, offering prayers and their closeness to them.

Risk of escalation

The Christian leaders expressed concern that tensions might "continue to eincrease during the rare confluence of major religious festivals among the three Abrahamic faiths: Ramadan, Pesach, and Holy Week/Easter".

The need to walk in the pathway of peace

They therefore called upon the faithful within each of these three traditions “to show forth the mutual respect and care for one’s neighbor that is central to the teachings of each” of them".

The statement also appealed to governmental authorities “to exercise policies of religious tolerance, restraint of force, and de-escalation of conflict—and we commend them to the extent that they have already done so”.

“In these coming weeks that are sacred to our respective religious traditions, we encourage all people of good faith to walk in the pathway of peace that is so central to the symbolism of Jerusalem, “the City of Peace.” In this way, we can be true witnesses to the world of the common vision of Peace/ Shalom/Salaam that is enshrined within the heart of our separate but intertwined religious beliefs.”

The dispute over the Little Petra Hotel

On the same day the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem  issued another statement condemning the recent forceful occupation of the 'Little Petra Hotel' by the Jewish radical group ‘Ateret Cohanim’.

The ownership of this building, located near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, has been disputed in Israeli courts after it was sold by the former Greek-Orthodox patriarch, Irenaeus I, in a controversial agreement signed in 2004.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, have repeatedly warned “against the illegitimate actions of extremists, carried out with intimidation and violence”.

Coercion and violence cannot lead to peace

In their statement, they said that by forcibly occupying the property of the Greek Orthodox Church ‘Ateret Cohanim’ activists committed a criminal trespass and are behaving “as if they are above the law”, remarking that the 'Little Petra Hotel' is an important part of the Christian heritage of Jerusalem.

The Christian leaders argued that the Judaization of Jerusalem, will only lead to instability and tension. “Acts of coercion and violence cannot lead to peace”, they said.

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05 April 2022, 16:32