The World Council of Churches (WCC) is providing resources – including a sample letter and ideas for distribution – that calls on the government of Israel and all governments worldwide to ensure unimpeded access to holy sites in the Jerusalem during upcoming Easter celebrations.
“We hope that together, we can join in action and prayer; to ensure that freedom of worship is protected in a land so worthy of justice, peace, and dignity for all,” the letter reads.
“The 2022 violence and restrictions by Israeli police drew strong reactions worldwide.”
During 2022, the World Council of Churches, as well as the local Heads of Churches, issued solidarity statements and called for respect of the status quo and religious freedom in Jerusalem.
“The police had announced a weak excuse ahead of the Holy Fire Saturday celebrations, that the aim was to control the numbers for safety purposes,” reads the letter.
“Throughout history, the only incident due to crowds inside the Church of the Holy Sepulture happened in 1834.”
In 2022, the Latin Palm Sunday procession was stopped suddenly by Israeli police, as the celebrants were on their way to the Christian Quarter.
“The road was closed as the scout groups and the faithful were carrying their palms, chanting their hymns, and praying while they prepared to enter Jerusalem,” reads the letter.
“The faithful tried to reason with the police, but they were kept waiting for nearly one hour until the police decided to reopen the road.”
The letter also urges justice for Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan.
“The inhumane and crowded conditions at the checkpoints on Fridays during Ramadan pain us all,” reads the letter.
“We hope that your intervention will protect the rights of Christians – irrespective of denomination – to exercise religious rituals in Jerusalem freely, and that Christians from the West Bank and Gaza have unimpeded access to the city.”
Latin Palm Sunday will be on 2 April, and Orthodox Holy Fire Saturday will be on 15 April.
“We urge you to ask the Government of Israel not to impose checkpoints, and that the police refrain from using violence against Christian worshipers and clergy,” the letter concludes.
“Moreover, Muslim rights must be respected in terms of unimpeded access to Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan.”
First published on the World Council of Churches website on 13 March 2023. The resources are downloadable from the World Council of Churches website.Jump to next article