Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Christian religious leaders in the Middle East have issued new appeals to the United States and US president Donald Trump to change the decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US Embassy to the city.
This controversial choice has caused protests and sparked outrage with deaths and wounded in the region, worrying Pope Francis himself, who has called for respect of the status quo.
Yesterday, in a statement, the Holy See expressed its attention and concern for the holy city and for peace in the disputed city.
In a statement sent to AsiaNews, the Chaldean patriarchate appeals to the American "superpower", reminding the United States that it " has the obligation to pursue peace, justice and prosperity in the world, rather than complicating issues by conflicts and wars.”
For the leader of the Iraqi Church, President Trump’s decision "will trigger the fire in an area that is already inflamed."
From this comes a request to respect the status quo in Jerusalem and, in this pre-Christmas, pray “with all those of good will for reconciliation and stability in the Holy Land, surrounding countries and the whole world.”
Card Beshara al-Rahi, head of the Maronite Church, shares the concerns of his Iraqi counterpart. In yesterday’s Mass, he described Trump’s decision as “regrettable” and “destructive”, which "violates resolutions of international legitimacy, defies the regional and international will, and insults Palestinians, Levantine Christians, Muslims and Arabs.”
“It destroys the bridges of peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, ignites the fire of a new uprising, and turns city of peace Jerusalem into a city of war,” the patriarch warned.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II also did not mince his words, cancelling a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in Cairo (Egypt) later this month.
Trump’s decision “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people,” the Coptic Church said in a statement. For this reason, the Coptic pope will not meet with Pence when he visits Egypt. Copts represent about 10 per cent of the country’s population.
Tawadros’s decision follows that of Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the highest Islamic Sunni authority in the world.
Egypt’s two top religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, have adopted a common line against meeting the US vice president.
Against the backdrop of protests and outrage but also resignation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has done the same, calling Trump’s decision “reprehensible” and a “deliberate undermining of all peace efforts”, whilst warning that the move ended Washington’s historic role as the key sponsor for Israel-Palestinian peace talks.”
The White House had warned on Thursday that cancelling the meeting planned for later this month in the West Bank would be “counterproductive,” but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence who is due to visit the region December 17-19. Abbas has to contend in fact with hard-line Hamas, galvanised by the US decision.
For Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group, Trump’s decision has brought to an end American mediation in the Middle East. It will not change the situation in Jerusalem but it marks the US abdication of its leading role in the peace process.
The activist group, which includes Uri Avnery, now wonders who will fill the vacuum left by the United States. According to some, Russia and President Vladimir Putin might do the job; others hope for greater leadership from the European Union, or even China. However, uncertainty prevails in the major capitals of the world.
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched an offensive to take advantage of the situation, at home and abroad, of the US president’s decision.
During a visit to Europe, the Israeli leader, who held a frosty meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, said that the recognition makes peace possible.
In a statement, Netanyahu also criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who, in his view, does not accept democracy.
Meanwhile, the Arab League at an emergency meeting in Cairo called for the recognition of the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.