Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem have come out against the Israel’ government’s denial of a residency permit in the city to the Anglican (Episcopalian) bishop Suheil Dawani. At the same time, they have renewed their protest against government attempts to impose new taxes on churches, something which was excluded by the UN, and in centuries of their presence had never occurred before not even at the founding of the State of Israel.
In a statement released in recent days, the church leaders (which includes patriarchs, bishops, the head of the Custody of the Holy Land) defend Bishop Dawani’s " right to religious freedom," to “reside with his family in the holy city."
Bishop Dawani was born in Nablus in the West Bank and is considered a "foreigner" in East Jerusalem, a territory occupied by Israel and where the Cathedral and Anglican curia are located. He may reside there only with special permission which has been denied him by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior (see 25/02/2011 Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem’s visa revoked).
Church leaders are "deeply concerned" by the ministerial decision because it constitutes “a precedent in attempts by the Israeli authorities to deny his residence in Jerusalem at the head of one of the Churches of the Holy City (see Holy Land Churches support Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem ).
According to information gathered by AsiaNews there is already another Christian bishop, threatened with expulsion from Jerusalem for "crimes of opinion".
Recently, the Church leaders issued another statement dennouncing "new moves by the Israeli authorities to impose municipal property taxes (Arnona) on church buildings and property" a policy they describe as "an aggressive action".
They point out that such impositions mark “a radical departure from the consistent practice of every previous State to have governed any part of the Holy Land, including the Ottoman empire, the British Mandate, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel itself".
The new aggressive policy is " direct contradiction to the mandate of the United Nations Organization" on the founding of the State of Israel (Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947), which applies not only to Jerusalem but also to the two national states that it[ The UN] authorizes to be established in the Holy Land".
"These new charges - say Christian leaders - contradict the solemn promises given to the Churches by successive Israeli governments, most notably confirmed in the wake of the June 1967 war".
“Any person of good - continues the statement - will must understand that the abrupt imposition of unprecedented new taxation on the Christian Churches could only come at the expense of their ability to maintain their presence in the Holy Land and to continue their ministries of pastoral care, education, welfare and health."(see Holy Land churches protest against Israeli tax move ).
The defence of the Anglican bishop’s residency permit and criticism of the new tax are interconnected: according to information obtained by AsiaNews, some prelates have been threatened with expulsion from Jerusalem, if they do not withdraw their support from criticism of the new taxes. This is why Christian leaders are deeply worried.The heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem include: the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, the Latin Patriarch, the Armenian Patriarch, the Custos of the Holy Land and the Archbishops and Bishops of the Armenian Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox , Greek Catholic, Maronite, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches..