Bethphage (AsiaNews) - Muslim and Christian leaders as well as civil authorities in Jerusalem have signed a treaty of friendship to nip in the bud disputes between communities of different faiths and thus avoid sectarian clashes. The first example of this kind of "local" diplomacy was achieved in Bethphage (East Jerusalem) on Monday, with the involvement of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, representatives of the Latin Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Arab Governatorate of East Jerusalem as well as important political and moral figures. Leaders were pushed to seek such an agreement after sectarian clashes broke out in recent months, in the wake of the establishment of a Christian subdivision in a Muslim area in East Jerusalem.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem and one of the signatories of the agreement, said that the latter "marks a turning point in relations between Christians and Muslims . . . and can be exported not only to other areas of the Holy Land, but throughout the Middle East."
"A treaty of this kind," he explained, "guaranteed by various local and national religious leaders, could be very useful in Egypt, where disputes between families turn into local as well as national clashes, with serious repercussions for interfaith dialogue. "
In addition to Mgr Shomali, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Hussein, East Jerusalem Governor Adnan Husseini, and Fr Ibrahim Faltas, treasurer of the Custody of the Holy Land, signed the accord.
The signatories represent 63 Christian families living in the Bethphage subdivision, built by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, and delegates from the Muslim community.
Religious and political leaders are tasked with ensuring the implementation of the treaty, whose clauses range from mutual respect to conciliation in disputes over land and the construction of new housing.
More than a hundred people took part in the ceremony, which was held at the Mount of Olives Club. (S.C.)