For Christians, Jews, Muslims this Easter weekend has something, but violence shrouds Jerusalem
This year, Easter for Christians, Passover for Jews and Ramadan for Muslims, Passover all coincide on the weekend of April 15 to 17 at a time tensions have boiled over into violence in the city where Jesus' crucifixion is commemorated and his resurrection is celebrated.
The last time that Ramadan for Muslims, Passover for Jews and Easter for Christians – the Abrahamic faiths -- all happened on the same weekend was some 30 years ago.
On Good Friday, April 15 Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, and on Sunday celebrate Easter, marking their belief in his resurrection.
On April 15, Jewish believers celebrate the eve of Pesach, commonly called Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the end of their slavery.
And over the same weekend, Muslims around the world mark another Friday, their weekly holiday within the holy month of Ramada, which started on April 2 and ends on May 2.
The overlapping religious holidays have brought tens of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian worshippers, as well as foreign pilgrims, to Jerusalem's Old City.
And it did not go well due to ratcheted up tensions around contested sacred sites.
More than 20 Israelis and Palestinians were wounded on Easter Sunday in several incidents in and around Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, two days after major violence at the site, AFP reported.
The latest clashes take the number of wounded since Friday to more than 170, at a tense time when the Jewish Passover festival coincides with Ramadan. They also follow deadly violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank in late March and early this month that has killed 36 people.
At the Vatican on Easter Sunday Pope Francis called for free access to the holy sites in Jerusalem as he delivered his annual Easter address amid simmering violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy City, according to AFP.
"May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her, Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.
"May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each," he said.
The Pope made an impassioned plea for an end to the war in Ukraine in his Easter Message "Urbi et Orbi"— to the city of Rome and the world, America Magazine reported.
He alluded to the risk that this conflict could descend into a nuclear war and insisted, "Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone's primary responsibility!"
'DECISION FOR PEACE' IN UKRAINE
Francis called for "a decision for peace" in that war now in its 53rd day and "an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering."
He made his appeal after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square and the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, on Easter Sunday.
The Pope reminded the 100,000 people present—the largest gathering seen in that square and surrounding areas since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.
Two days earlier clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police left 10 protesters wounded in the vicinity of Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, police said.
The latest tensions in Jerusalem followed weeks of mounting tensions that saw two deadly attacks by Palestinians in or near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv in late March and early April, alongside mass arrests by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.
Following an April 11 April statement of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressing grave concerns over announced police restrictions on Holy Fire Saturday, the World Council of Churches strongly condemned such measures restricting access to places of worship as violations of religious freedom in the Holy Land.
"Jerusalem is sacred," declared World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca.
"It is sacred for all three monotheistic religions, and access to Jerusalem is an inalienable right for all people of these faiths. Christians have been living on this land and witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ for more than 2000 years.
"The resurrection is at the heart of our Christian faith and at the heart of all Christian communities in the world. We cannot accept measures that challenge the fundamental rights of our churches to celebrate this centre point of our faith."