Church leaders in Holy Land reiterate appeal for just peace
By Lisa Zengarini
As Palestinians marked the 75th anniversary of al-Nakba (the Catastrophe), on May 15, commemorating their forced expulsion from their homeland on the day the State of Israel came into being in 1948, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem reiterated the Churches’ call to strive for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.
Mutual respect is path to achieving peace
“Our faith teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity, and that we must unite and work together to achieve peace, tolerance, and justice,” reads a statement released on Monday. “Christianity has taught us that love, compassion, and mutual respect are the path to achieving peace in the world, and this is especially applicable to our beloved Holy Land.”
The Nakba commemorates the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes in 1948. The fate of these refugees and their descendants — estimated at over 5 million across the Middle East — remains a major disputed issue in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, with Israel rejecting demands for a mass return of refugees to long-lost homes.
Resurgent Israeli-Palestinian violence
This year the commemoration falls against the backdrop of resurgent Israeli-Palestinian violence, which since January has killed more than 140 Palestinians and at least 19 Israelis and foreigners.
Violence has further escalated since the first week of May when the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the second biggest militant group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas), and other groups fired more than 100 rockets into Israel over two days, following the death in an Israeli prison of a Palestinian hunger striker.
The attacks have been followed by Israeli deadly air strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.
Last week saw the heaviest fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants since August 2022.
Respect for human rights and international law
In their statement the Patriarchs of Jerusalem once again urge “everyone to work together to build a better and more humane future for all”, remarking “that peace can only be achieved when there is fairness and respect for human rights and international law”.
Respect for holy sites and Status Quo
The statement further calls upon the international community to play a greater role in supporting the protection of communities and in preserving holy places and the current “Status Quo” rules, implicitly referring to the recent increase in attacks against churches and physical and verbal abuses against Christian clergy by Israeli estremists.
The Christian leaders concluded by praying for God to provide the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, state building, and prosperity allowing all the peoples in the Holy Land to live in peace, dignity, and prosperity”.