BETHLEHEM, December 23, 2017 (WAFA) – Christian leaders stressed on Saturday the centrality of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions, denouncing the United States for declaring it capital of Israel.
Speaking at a press conference in Bethlehem as Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas at the site where Jesus Christ was born, Christian leaders said that without peace in Jerusalem, there will not be peace anywhere in the world.
“Those who want peace in Jerusalem should know that power will not bring peace,” said former Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah. “Peace starts with Jerusalem. Power cannot impose unjust peace.”
Sabah said Jerusalem is holy for three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and capital of two states, Palestine and Israel.
“The holy places are governed by the status quo, which should be respected,” he added.
Attallah Hanna, a Greek Orthodox archbishop, said that the Christians reject the US declaration on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“This declaration is considered an insult and offensive to our people and an affront to Christians and Muslims who look at Jerusalem as the sanctuary of their national and religious beliefs and traditions.”
He considered the US decision on Jerusalem as “one of the most dangerous and worst US decisions,” adding that “we as Christians of this land are not goods imported from the West. No power in the world can uproot us from this land. We are part of the Arab Orient.”
Hanna vowed to protect the Christian property in Palestine, “and this way we will defeat (US President Donald) Trump’s project that aims to abolish the Palestinian cause and not only the issue of Jerusalem.”
Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran Church said the Christian leaders wrote Trump before he announced his decision on Jerusalem on December 6 urging him not to take any action that would prejudice the status of Jerusalem, “because it would harm peace and justice not only in Jerusalem but the entire Middle East.”
He said that “there cannot be peace in the Middle East without peace in Jerusalem. It is time that our people gain their legitimate right in a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Father Ibrahim Filtis, a Franciscan priest, said that the US declaration has actually brought the Palestinian cause back to the forefront of world news and interest. “This is victory to the Palestinian cause, which is a central conflict and the mother of all conflicts.”
He said that as the community was considering whether to hold Christmas festivities or not due to the difficult political situation on the ground caused by the Trump declaration, “I believe we should rejoice this Christmas, celebrate it together and make it one of the most important holidays.”
He called for coming out on Christmas Eve to receive the traditional Latin Patriarchate’s Christmas procession from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, which will be headed by Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and walk with it to the Church of Nativity where the Midnight Mass will be held in the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas, “who everyone know that he is a man of peace.”
“What this will mean is that we are all united and that Jerusalem is for all. Without a solution to the issue of Jerusalem, there will not be peace in the world,” he said, adding, “We hope that the year 2018 will be the year for the end of the (Israeli) occupation and that the issue of Jerusalem will be resolved so that peace will prevail.”
Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, accused US President Trump of stealing the Christmas festivities from the Holy Land with his declaration on Jerusalem.