04/20/2009, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST
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Despite some difficulties Orthodox Easter joyfully celebrated across the Middle East

Syria’s grand mufti sends his best wishes to the Christian community. Egypt’s President Mubarak and the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center do likewise. A Jordanian paper publishes a number of articles by Christian clergymen on the Resurrection. Jerusalem receives about 100,000 pilgrims. Via Crucis also held in Bethlehem.
Rome (AsiaNews) – With Orthodox celebrations yesterday Easter ended in the Middle East. The days of rejoicing were shared with Muslims with some limitations as usual imposed in Israel for “security reasons”. 

Jordan

In Jordan, where most Christian are Orthodox, the government has decreed that Easter is celebrated according to the Orthodox calendar. Here Christians can celebrate their holidays with the maximum freedom.

On Good Friday processions were held. Churches were open and full. Everyone, Orthodox and Catholics, celebrated the occasion.

Fr Nabil Hadad, parish priest for Amman’s Melkite Catholics, said that celebrations went well, especially on Easter Sunday, which “crowned Holy Week after 40 days of fasting.”

The Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center expressed his best wishes to all Christians of Jordan.

“On the occasion of Easter Jordanian Muslims and Christians, who live in a country that is blessed, are brothers who love each other as part of the same family, Jordan … Best wishes to all.”

The Alrai newspaper published a number of articles about Christ’s resurrection written by Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran clergymen.

Another paper, Alddastour published an Easter Sunday article that addressed Muslim-Christian relations in Jordan and diplomatic relations between the kingdom and the Vatican.

Palestine and Israel

Like the previous Sunday security in Jerusalem and Palestine was handled by Israeli forces. The limitations imposed on Palestinian Christians were once again an issue. The Melkite Orthodox Patriarchate issued a statement of protest (reprinted by many Arabic-language media), saying that freedom of worship is a God-given right and that no one has the right to limit it.

On Easter Sunday an estimated 100,000 pilgrims took to the streets of Jerusalem (pictured). After the blessing of the fire in the Church of the Resurrection, young people from every community (Armenian, Syriac, Copt and Melkite) took part in traditional chanting and dancing in the Old City.

The situation was better in Bethlehem. Worshippers who took part in Holy Week celebrations in Christ’s birthplace were able to conduct certain activities in the streets.

“Our mission today,” the city’s mayor said, “is one of peace and love.”

“This day has many meanings,” an orthodox priest said; “one of them is the Palestinian people’s willingness and patience to struggle against difficulties.”

Easter was celebrated in other Palestinian cities as well. The Via Crucis, representing Christ’s passion, was also held in the streets.

Despite tight security many towns and villages received the Easter fire from Jerusalem on Holy Saturday.

In one village the local parish priest said that the occasion showed how much the faithful want peace and salvation. He called on everyone to enjoy these glorious and holy moments.

Syria

On Easter Syria’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Badr Al-Din Hassoun, released a message for Christians. “In this glorious moment,’ he said, “when faith wins, the light of certainty spreads and the flowering of Christ’s love ascends to heaven, we see that today’s world needs spiritual and psychological progress so as to leave future generations a human civilisation based on faith and justice and the great power of love.”

“I hope that that on the holidays of faith humanity may receive the bright light of faith to extinguish the fire of hatred among its children so that peace may rule in the name of God throughout the universe.”

Egypt

Patriarch Shenouda celebrated Easter in St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo’s Abbassia District in the presence of representatives from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches as well as a government representative who conveyed President Mubarak’s best wishes.

On Sunday Easter, which coincided with a spring festivity celebrated in Egypt, public transport authorities offered discounts to passengers.

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