10/09/2006, 00.00
HOLY LAND

Christian religious leaders release statement on the status of Jerusalem

The heads of local Christian Churches point out that unilateral actions used so far have brought neither peace to the holy city nor a normal life to its residents. They call for a committee to look into the city's future status, which must be guaranteed by the international community.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Political leaders must grant Jerusalem a distinct status guaranteed by the international community that would uphold the rights of the "two peoples in her and the three faith communities" if we want make the city to "a true sign of the presence of God and of His peace among all." This, in a nutshell, is the thrust of an appeal made and signed by 13 heads and patriarchs of the Christian communities in the Holt Land.

In their September 29 statement the religious leaders note that in light of recent violent events in the region peace requires shared decisions by the two peoples—Israelis and Palestinians—that respect the rights of believers of all faiths. And any agreement would have to include a 'special status' for the Holy City.

Titled "The Status of Jerusalem", the press release demands the city enjoy a special status, which would include:

-      "The human right of freedom of worship and of conscience for all, both as individuals and as religious communities [. . .].

-      "Equality of all her inhabitants before the law, in coordination with the international resolutions.

-      "Free access to Jerusalem for all, citizens, residents or pilgrims, at all times, whether in peace or in war. Therefore Jerusalem should be an open city.

-      "The rights of property ownership, custody and worship which the different Churches have acquired throughout history should continue to be retained by the same communities. These rights, which are already protected in the Status Quo of the Holy Places according to historical "firmans" and other documents, should continue to be recognized and respected [. . .].

-      "The various Christian Holy Places in the city, wherever they are, must remain united in geography, whatever the solution envisaged."

 

The religious leaders' decision to speak out stems from the increasing tendency of the political authorities to unilaterally decide the city's fate and status. "The access of our faithful and our personnel to Jerusalem is ever-more difficult."

"With the construction of the wall [. . .] and according to plans published in the local press" many faithful will de facto be excluded. Hence they urge local authorities, the international community and the world's Churches to make "a concerted effort to search for a common vision on the status of this holy city based on international resolutions and having regard to the rights of two peoples in her and the three faith communities."

Unilateralism has so far "not brought about the pacification of the city and have not reassured normal life for her inhabitants," the patriarchs and religious leaders said.

A just and durable solution for the Jerusalem question requires that the "future of the city must be decided by common agreement, through collaboration and consultation and not imposed by power and force. Unilateral decisions or imposed solutions will continue to be very detrimental to peace and security."

"Different solutions are possible. The city of Jerusalem might remain united but sovereignty in this case must be shared, exercised according to a principle of equality by both Israelis and Palestinians. However, the city might also be divided if this be the desire of the two peoples who live here, with two distinct sovereignties, the aim of which would be to reach a true unity of hearts in the two parts of the city."

Never the less, "[f]ace to face with the inability of the parties involved to find a just and durable solution up until the present time, the assistance of the international community is a necessity. In the future too, this aid needs to continue in the form of guarantees that will ensure the stability of the agreements reached by the two sides."

Hence "[w]e recommend to create as soon as possible, an ad hoc committee to reflect on the future of the city. In this committee the local Churches of Jerusalem must be a part."

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