• TOP STORIES \ Dec 30, 2004
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    Jerusalem Christian Leaders remain Faithful to Holy Land's Future
Jerusalem Christian Leaders remain Faithful to Holy Land's Future Bethlehem is now surrounded by many physical obstructions, checkpoints and dirt mounds, and as a result the city is isolated from Jerusalem.

Church leaders lamented that many Christian families had already left the Bethlehem area "because of the hardships they have experienced not least from the building of the 'separation wall', and the incredible structure at the entrance to the city."

"All these works have also meant many Christian families have had their land confiscated from them," the leaders added.

Despite the current restriction imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli occupation which hinders their religious observance to the Holy Land, Christian Church leaders in Jerusalem believe that there are "small signs of hope".

"Promises that soon some political prisoners will be released by the Israelis and hopes of renewed efforts by all sides to resume the peace talks" are the signs of hope, according to the Christian leaders.

Christian leaders wrote in a statement received by Zenit News, "The two peoples of this Holy Land are still in quest of peace and justice, searching how to put an end to hostility, bloodshed and killings in Palestine and Israel, not least in Bethlehem itself, the city of peace toward which all Christians in the world turn their eyes in these days."

Amid all oppression and sufferings, Christians in the Holy Land were invited to meditate upon their identity as a follower of Christ, "if we truly welcome Christ into our lives and if we are true witnesses to him and if the others see through our witnessing in our daily life Jesus the Saviour and the Prince of Peace and the dignity he gave to all men and women."

Church leaders highlighted their mission on this troubled land, "As heads of churches we continue to endeavour to build bridges of peace and hope as we raise our voices for justice amongst all peoples."

They also requested that all Christians put their faith into practice, "But still, dear brothers and sisters, we need you to play your part in your respective countries."

The religious leaders called for all "Christian brothers and sisters" to "offer our sincere thanks for all your prayers, solidarity, and for your love to this Holy Land and to all its inhabitants."

"We express our thanks and joy for the coming back of the pilgrims and look for very many more," they said. "The churches in the world are called to remember that the Holy Land is the land of the roots of all Christians."

"The future of Bethlehem itself needs a special attention," the letter affirmed. "Doubtless you will sing time-honoured carols about 'The Little Town of Bethlehem'. This little town today needs a special support in order to remain the town of peace, where faithful believing in Jesus the Saviour and the Prince of Peace can remain."

"We pray and hope that the days will come when people in Bethlehem and in all the Holy Land will live freely without the need of the separation wall for security," concluded the statement.

Those who signed the statement included:

Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ireneos I of Jerusalem
Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Torkom I Manooghian
Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Anba Abraham
Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Aba Cuostos Syro
Orthodox Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad
Father Pierbattista Pizziballa--Custodian of the Holy Land
Greek Catholic Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad
Armenian Catholic Bishop George Khazoum
Syro-Catholic Bishop Pierre Malki
Latin-rite Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Maronite Archbishop Paul Sayyah
Anglican Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal