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September 21, 2015 3:40 pm

Protestant Minister Says Fellow Christian Leaders’ Call for Jordanian Control of All Holy Sites in Israel Prompted by Threats

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Church of St. John the Baptist (Ein Karem, Jerusalem). Photo: Wikipedia.

Church of St. John the Baptist (Ein Karem, Jerusalem). Photo: Wikipedia.

A prominent Protestant minister in Jerusalem accused the Palestinian Authority of coercing the Christian leadership in the Holy Land into turning against Israel.

Wishing to remain anonymous, this senior figure told The Algemeiner that the release of a “Statement from the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem” – signed by 13 church leaders – is a direct result of this kind of “unholy” relationship between Arab-Muslims and the Christians who live in fear of their wrath.

The statement in question, released Monday and posted on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, is a response to the escalating violence on the Temple Mount, the control over which was given to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (a Muslim trust) by Israel following its victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Calling on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to take custody of all holy places in Israel to maintain the “status quo,” the statement reads as follows:

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We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, wish to express our serious concern regarding recent violent development on Haram al Sharif.

We condemn all threats of change to historical (Status Quo) situation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram Asharif) and its courtyard, all buildings, and in the city of Jerusalem. Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to unpredictable consequences which would be most unwelcome in the present delicate political climate.

Muslims have the right to free access and worship to the Al Aqsa Mosque.

There is a great importance of the custody of the Hashemite kingdom on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy places in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. We believe that all Holy Sites need constant watchful protection so that reasonable access to them can be maintained according to the prevailing Status Quo of all three Abrahamic faiths.

We renew our call that the existing agreed Status Quo governing these sites needs to be fully respected for the sake of the whole community.

[Signed by]

The Heads of churches in Jerusalem

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate

+Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate

+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land

+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Aba Embakob, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate

+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate

+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

+Archbishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

+Msgr. Georges Dankaye’, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate

The senior Protestant minister, who asked to remain nameless so as not to jeopardize his relations with the above signatories, said that the church leadership in the Middle East suffers from “dhimmitude” — the subjugation of non-Muslims under Islamic rule.

The Christian leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority “are put under threat by the Palestinian-Muslim authorities,” the minister told The Algemeiner on Monday. “So much so that today there was a meeting of the heads of the churches begging the PA to be nice to the Christians in Bethlehem, who live under severe threat.”

But, the religious leader said, “You only get cooperation from the PA if you pay a price for it. And Israel is the price for another temporary period of comfort for Christians in PA-controlled areas.”

As for the Temple Mount, the minister said, “The status quo is constantly being violated by Muslims. It is they who are bringing in firebombs and rocks; it is they who do not treat the site as a holy place, but as a battle ground.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lela Gilbert, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, where she works with the Center for Religious Freedom and the Center for Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World.

The author of Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, Gilbert is a Christian who has been living in Jerusalem for the better part of a decade.

In a piece today (published by the Philos Project–Promoting Positive Christian Engagement in the Middle East) called “The Temple Mount – Outrageous Lies and Escalating Dangers,” she writes:

Perhaps the greatest contradiction in Jerusalem – and there are many – is that the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, yet Jews (and Christians) are not permitted to pray there.

Religious Jews have attempted to relax that aspect of the so-called status quo. Just prior to the New Year, right-wing Israeli minister Uri Ariel visited the compound after vowing that he would pray there, arousing angry commentary across the Muslim world.

Nonetheless, when Jewish or Christian tourists arrive at the site, they are routinely informed about some stringently enforced regulations: Prayer and worship, prayer books and visible symbols of non-Muslim worship (such as phylacteries) are strictly forbidden.

She goes on,

It is no exaggeration to say that on the Temple Mount, incitement to violence by radical Muslims never stops for long. Disturbances frequently break out, usually inspired by rumors and falsified reports that the Jews are “storming,” or otherwise “defiling” Al-Aksa. These reports are widespread in Middle East news, simultaneously appearing in Saudi, Iranian, Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian and other Muslim-dominated media.

According to Gilbert, statements like one signed by Jerusalem’s church leaders are inspired by such lies.

“If anyone has altered the status quo on the Temple Mount, it is the Muslims, not the Jews,” she told The Algemeiner.

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