The Status of Holy Sites in Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Bishop Munib Younan
Bishop Munib Younan (© Lutheran World Federation/LWF)

By Bishop Munib Younan

In I John 4:20-21, it is written, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” In the original context, the writer was reminding the early Christians that their declaration of love for God and acts of devotion to Christ meant nothing if they held their neighbors in contempt. In our modern context, we should also understand that the writer was not admonishing the Christians to merely love other Christians, but that “brothers (and sisters)” was meant to convey a needful regard for humanity itself.

In recent months we have seen a rise in the occurrence of the so-called “price tag” acts of vandalism. Since the beginning of 2013, perpetrators committed over twenty acts of vandalism at Holy Sites, including churches, mosques, and synagogues. Recently, the Church of the Dormition on Mt. Zion were prey to this sort of attack. The term “price tag” is pejorative and dehumanizing. It is meant to instill fear in the hearts of the site’s inhabitants that they will “pay a price” for remaining.

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CRIHL Shocked By the Unprecedented High Number of Attacks on Holy Sites in the Month of May

Dormition Abbey Vandalized
Dormition Abbey vandalized (© Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

JERUSALEM, 3rd June, 2013 – During the month of May an unprecedented number of sites holy to all three religions have been attacked, some repeatedly. Synagogues in Bat Yam and Haifa, a mosque in Umm Al-Qutuf, graves in As-Sawiya, and the Church of the Dormition on Mount Zion have all been desecrated with offensive graffiti. The Council views these attacks on Holy sites as despicable and believes they contribute to a divisive and hostile environment.

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land calls on the police forces and respective municipalities to do their utmost to prevent such attacks and restore safety and respect for Holy Sites of all religions.

The press release in Arabic and links to follow for more information are after the jump.

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Council meets with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Vice President Joe Biden meets with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

WASHINGTON D.C./JERUSALEM, 8 March 2012 (Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land)– On a visit to Washington, representatives of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land met with the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, Madam Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator John Kerry and many other political, and Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. It also met with organizations like American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), American-Palestinian Task Force, and participated in panel discussions at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington Institute for Near East policy and Georgetown University.

The Council delegation–was among others–comprised of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Rabbi Daniel Sperber, and the Director General of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Oded Wiener. The Muslims were represented by Dr. Mahmoud Habbash, the Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA, and the Director of the Ministry, Mr. Salah Zueikah. And the Christian delegation was represented by His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal and Munib Younan the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

The representatives of the Council came with a message which stated that peace in the Holy Land is a necessity – and possible. It continued by calling on the U.S administration and international mediators to seek the advice and utilize the competence of religious leaders when faced with issues where both political and religious concerns are involved.

The Council has demonstrated its concern about the respect for the current status quo of holy sites and the protection of these against any kind of defamation.

The delegation has conveyed that Jerusalem is a holy city to believers of all three religions whose religious narratives linked to Jerusalem. In this regard, the Council aims at aiding politicians in such a way that conflict over Jerusalem does not obstruct peace in the Holy Land.

The Council has always condemned incitement, especially when religion or religious texts are used in the conflict. The Council is providing leadership in countering incitement through its research study on the “portrayal of the other” in Palestinian and Israeli schoolbooks. The Council also calls for the reestablishment of the joint American, Israeli and Palestinian Commission on incitement which was established in 1999.

Finally, the Council highlights the importance and its intent to equip emerging religious leaders for their future leadership role.

The delegation left Washington with a sense that it self and its message were well received and met with understanding.

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See photos from the meeting.

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Learn more about the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

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Visit elcjhl.org to learn more about the mission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

American Task Force on Palestine Hosts Washington Dinner for CRIHL

Washington, D.C., 29 February 2012 (The American Task Force on Palestine)– The American Task Force on Palestine yesterday hosted a Washington dinner for the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL), the consultative body that comprises the most senior official Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders. CRIHL was established as the implementing body of the historic declaration signed in Alexandria, Egypt in 2002 in which Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders pledged to work together to end violence and promote peace. The event was sponsored by ATFP board member Dr. Adnan M. M. Mjalli and moderated by ATFP President Dr. Ziad J. Asali. Numerous CRIHL members spoke at the event, which was a rare instance of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from Palestinian and Israeli societies assembling to promote dialogue and advocate for peace.

In his remarks, CRIHL Convener Rev. Dr. & Canon Trond Bakkevig of Norway noted that his family had lived in Amman, Jordan, before 1967, and travelled to Jerusalem, which is about an hour drive away, on a weekly basis. He said since those formative experiences, he has been committed to seeking peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. Bakkevig said that leaders in all local communities “need to take responsibility for resolving the conflict” and that what outsiders like himself can do is “help facilitate dialogue and promote understanding.” He said the Council from the outset understood that it had to be based on these local religious institutions, and said the Chief Rabbinate, local churches and the Sharia Council all responded very positively when the idea was first floated and did not hesitate to join the Council. He said it is very significant that many of these religious authorities are linked to political institutions, for example the close relationship between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, while Muslim and Christian institutions work closely with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Wakf and Religious Affairs. Such religious leaders “do not substitute for political leadership,” he said, but “they can help guide politicians on religious matters.”

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Visit the website of the American Task Force on Palestine.

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Learn more about the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

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See photos from the CRIHL visit to the US.

Bishop Younan Travels to United States as Member of CRIHL Delegation

JERUSALEM, 27 February 2012 – Bishop Younan is in the US this week as a member of a delegation from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) meeting with interfaith and governmental representatives. The visit is centered in and around Washington, D.C.

On the schedule for tomorrow is an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) entitled “Preventing Incitement and Promoting Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities for Religious Peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. For more information, see the announcement from USIP below:

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USIP Event

Click here to learn more about the USIP event on their website.

CRIHL website

Click here to visit crihl.org and check for new updates on the US Delegation visits.

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Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land Condemns Desecration of Baptist Church

JERUSALEM, 20 February 2012 (CRIHL) – Following the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in West Jerusalem, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) released the following statement:

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in west Jerusalem this morning. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute.

In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, The Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land,

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land

Members of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury

JERUSALEM, 2 February 2012 (CRIHL) – Members of The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land met with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Willams and the British Consul General Sir Vincent Fean, in the Lutheran Church. Rev Dr Trond Bakkevig convener of the Council gave an overview of the councils work and highlighted the unique work of the council against incitement and abuse of Holy places. The Archbishop welcomed the Council in assisting in the interfaith efforts in the UK.

Click here or on the photo above to view more photos from the day.

Click here to view the original article on the CRIHL website.

Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land Release Statement

JERUSALEM, 7 December 2011 – The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the mosque in the village of Burkin in the northern West Bank yesterday. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute.

In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land,The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land

 

CRIHL Releases Statement in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

ERUSALEM, September 21, 2010 – The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL) met in Jerusalem on Monday, September 20, and drafted the following statement which was copied to Senator Mitchell in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations:

September 21, 2010

The Honorable Senator George Mitchell
US Special Envoy to the Middle East
c/o David Hale, Deputy Special Envoy to the Middle East

Dear Senator Mitchell,

The Council of the Religious Institutions of the holy Land (CRIHL) representing the high official Israeli and Palestinian religious authorities, welcomes and supports the resumption of peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments in the spirit of peace, justice and reconciliation.

The CRIHL wishes to thank the US administration for its ongoing efforts and reiterates the importance of respecting the religious attachments of the three religions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – in the holy land and especially in Jerusalem. The members of the CRIHL accordingly encourage all parties to persist in this process and reaffirm the conviction that it is our shared responsibility to find the right way to live together in peace.

In accordance with the declaration of the religious leaders of the CRIHL when hosted in Washington DC, “we urge all those in positions of leadership involved in the negotiations, to seek the advice of religious leadership of our respective communities, especially on issues regarding holy sites and the holy city of Jerusalem” and “to engage religious leadership in efforts to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and instead serve the goals of just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation.”

Respectfully,
On behalf of the CRIHL,
Rev. Dr. Trond Bakkevig, CRIHL Convener

The CRIHL represents the high religious authorities of the Holy Land: the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Affairs (Waqf), the Palestinian Sharia Courts and the assembly of the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem. For more information, please visit the CRIHL website.

Council demands respect for all religious sites

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, comprised of leaders of Jerusalem’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, has released a statement calling for respect for the holy sites of all three religions.

The Nov. 13 statement came in response to recent clashes on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The statement reads:

“The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land regrets that the holy sites in Jerusalem continue to be exploited for conflict in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Council reaffirms its commitment to advancing respect between religious communities in Jerusalem, the protection of each community’s holy sites and their sensitivities.

“Accordingly, in the wake of recent violent events, we express our support for all calls such as that of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammed Hussein, advocating non-violence and respect for the special and current status of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the official repeated position of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel that it is prohibited by Jewish law (the Halacha) [for Jews] to enter the area.

“Together we call for the respect for the holy sites of all three religions and for peace of Jerusalem.”

Clashes broke out in late September when extremist Jews entered the area with Israeli soldiers, according to a Ma’an News Agency report available here.

This followed reports by the Islamic Christian Society in Support of Jerusalem that said that Israel plans to allow Jewish worshippers exclusive access to the compound to worship on 50 Jewish holidays.