|Palm Sunday procession down the Mount of Olives|
|A police barrier to 'control the crowds'|
|A patient Georgian priest waiting at Jaffa Gate with some of his flock|
More serious was the distinct lack of local Christians. So few had managed even to get to Jerusalem. Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church reported that many Christians from the West Bank had been unable to obtain their permits due to a ‘computer error’. Many families received permits for only some members and chose to stay at home rather than spend Easter apart. We learned that out of 3000 permit applications, the Catholics in Bethlehem received only 700. 12 out of 14 West Bank Scout Troops were refused entry. One EA colleague witnessed a small Boy Scout in tears at the Bethlehem checkpoint. He had been turned back and was prevented from marching in the procession with his band.
Restriction of access to worship is, quite simply, illegal under International Humanitarian Law. Under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights …
‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom … to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’
At approximately 2.15pm on Holy Saturday, the fire emerged from the Holy Sepulchre. Candles, torches and lanterns were lit from it, first on the roof and then right around the now filling plaza. By 4 o’clock it had been carried from the Old City to Qalandia and through the checkpoint into the West Bank City of Ramallah where the torches of waiting Christians were lit from it.
|Some lucky pilgrims|
This post finishes with an exhortation from Bishop Munib Younan:
Our call as Arab and Middle East Christians is to be instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights, and apostles of love. I invite you to join with your brothers and sisters in the Middle East as we proclaim the truth of Christ's peace in our hearts to the world. I ask you this Easter Sunday to pray for peace based on justice with reconciliation based on forgiveness in Palestine and Israel. I implore you for the sake of the Gospel to pray that politicians will find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria. I beg you to pray for Arab and Middle East Christians in this region that they may be filled with the power of hope in the Resurrection. I ask you to not forget us nor cease accompanying us in our journey, for our mission is yours and yours is ours. Our mission continues to be one of a prophetic Church, implanting the power of Resurrection Peace in the hearts of all peoples. This is the reason that even in the midst of our doubts and suspicions we hear His gentle voice saying, "Peace be with you." And all of us with one voice will astonishingly reply, "My Lord and my God!" With this hope of the Resurrection, I send to you the Easter greetings of Jerusalem. Al-Masih Qam – Hakkan Qam! Christ has risen! He is risen indeed!
I work for Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of QPSW or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for Middle East firstname.lastname@example.org for permission. Thank you.