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1996 Call for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land

A statement of the Patriarchs, Bishops, clergy and people of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem.

29 September 1996

"The effect of Justice will be peace and the result of justice, quietness and security for ever" (Isaiah 32:17)

A STATEMENT OF THE PATRIARCHS, BISHOPS, CLERGY AND PEOPLE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES OF JERUSALEM They are: The Greek Orthodox Patriarch, The Latin Patriarch, The Armenian Patriarch, The Custos of the Holy Land, Coptic Archbishop, Syriac Archbishop, Ethiopian Archbishop, Anglican Bishop, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Vicar, Maronite Patriarchal Vicar, Lutheran Bishop and Catholic Syriac patriarchal Vicar September 29,1996

Our Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the past few days we have been going through the way of the cross. Together we have experienced feelings of pain and bitterness as we lived through the events that have shaken Jerusalem and the whole of our country, events that have let to the death of scores of people and wounding of hundreds.

Our first response as Christians in the midst of crises is the response of prayer. We cry out to God to have mercy on all of us, and to grant wisdom to the leaders of all the peoples of his land so that they might make the right decisions that will put an end to bloodshed and lead us to a just peace.

As we lift our voices in prayer, we wish to emphasize three principles that spring from the core of our faith in God and grow out of experience of the Christian Church in this country for the past 2000 years

1- Peace and security in our country cannot prevail unless they are established on justice. We believe that God is the God of justice and righteousness. God does not accept oppression, but calls on all of us as members of one human family, Arabs and Jews, to make justice and to love righteousness. God does not accept the domination of the powerful or their arrogance. Our faith assures us that any effort by the governing authority to impose peace in our country, which is not established on justice and righteousness, will lead to failure and disaster. We, therefore, urgently call on the Israeli government to pursue the peace process with all seriousness and to carry out all its obligations to our people. We urge the Israeli government to change its attitude and purify its motives. Peace cannot be imposed by the power of arms. Brutality will not lead to security. Stability cannot be established by way of injustice and the denial or rights. Justice must come first, and then peace will follow; a peace that will lead to security. We as Christians feel that the Israeli government's formula for peace is flawed. Its slogan is "security first and then peace." Such a formula casts justice aside and will never bring peace. As the prophet Isaiah has said "The effect of justice will be peace and the result of justice, quietness and security forever." (Isaiah 32:17).

2- Our faith teaches us that there is no difference between the life of one person and another. There is no difference in God's eyes between Jew and Palestinian, between Arab and foreigner. God is the creator of all. As believers in one God, we plainly state that all must live under the same law. We, therefore, call on the Israeli government to bring all its discriminatory policies to an end. Palestinians should have rights in their country, just as Jews have rights in their country. This is the only way that peace can prevail. Every time the Israeli government gives preferential treatment to Jew over Palestinians, it sows the seed of hatred and violence and thus is responsible for the growth of animosity towards its own people. We urge the Israeli government to abstain from the confiscation of land, to return confiscated land to its rightful owners, to stop the demolition of homes, to release all prisoners and detainees, to remove road blocks, and to respect all signed agreements. We call upon the Israeli government to close the recently opened tunnel, to refrain from causing insult and humiliation to the Palestinian people, and treat the Palestinians as genuine partners, who are seeking a life of freedom and dignity in their own country and on their own land. Racial discrimination does not lead to peace and security. Discrimination cannot be the basis for building trust between the two peoples.

3- The opening of the tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem was only the straw that broke the camel's back. However, the opening of the tunnel itself has great significance for it has touched the religious nerve of our Muslim brothers and sisters. The religious nerve in our country is the most sensitive nerve of all. A just and democratic government does not violate the religious sensitivity of others in this way. The easiest fire to kindle is the fire of religious opening of other tunnels which will inevitably lead to breaking into compound of the Mosque and the occupation of a part of it. Further archeological claims near the tunnel might also effect Christian sites and restrict pilgrims in the area. Therefore, what is required is the closure of the tunnel, along with pledge to the Muslim community that Israeli violation of Muslim of Christian holy places.

"Jerusalem first" is now a priority. It is the heart of the conflict and the key to peace. When the closure of the Jerusalem is lifted and the two parties share sovereignty over it, Jerusalem will become the city of peace. If Israel maintains an exclusive sovereignty over the city, and continues it "judaization," Jerusalem will never be the city of peace. Any peace imposed by the iron fist will remain a fake and temporary peace. Jews will never feel secure and Palestinians will never submit to it. We there insist on an open Jerusalem, the capital for two states; a city that will be a model for the peaceful coexistence between two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli. Thus, Jerusalem will become a genuine symbol of authentic brotherhood and tolerance between the three faiths: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

We call on all authorities concerned to end the violence, to work for the establishment of justice, so that stability might be realized. We ask God to fill our hearts and minds with love, strength, and all that is good, so that our region, our country, and our Jerusalem will have the peace for which we all strive and pray.