World churches body urges end to violence, respect for status quo of Jerusalem holy sites

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Jerusalem minarets and spires on Feb. 14, 2016.

The World Council of Churches has condemned violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex calling on Israel to respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City in the interest of peace and stability as events ran amok over a period of days.

The Lutheran World Federation also said it is deeply concerned over escalating violence and daily clashes in East Jerusalem, in particular confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

In a statement May 8, the WCC abhored  the overnight violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, in which more than 200 people were initially reported to have been wounded.

Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes outside al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on May 10.

It was when Israel marked the anniversary of its capture of parts of the city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Reuters news agency reported.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said at least 305 Palestinians were injured in the violence, and 228 of them were taken to hospital.

Several of the Palestinians were in critical condition and police said 21 officers were injured.

Al-Aqsa is Islam's third-holiest site.

It  has been a focal point of violence in Jerusalem throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and the clashes have raised international concern about wider conflict.

Violence, which has been ongoing for several nights, continued in Jerusalem as Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on Saturday, leaving many injured, NPR radio had reported May 9.

World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca called on Israel to respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City in the interest of peace and stability.


"We also call for all to refrain from further violence, and from provocative and destabilizing actions," said Sauca.

WCC said the latest events mark the escalation in the mounting unrest over the increase of the Security Forces' violence and restrictions around Jerusalem's Old City.

"Furthermore, the recent and future threatened evictions of Palestinian families from their properties claimed by Jewish settler groups in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah district have also contributed to this escalation," said the WCC.

It said that through its Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI), the WCC has accompanied and provided protective presence to the Palestinian community of Sheikh Jarrah since 2008, including attending court hearings in support of families threatened with eviction.

"As the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has observed, the laws on which the settler groups' claims are based are applied in an inherently discriminatory manner, to the detriment of Palestinians who in many cases have occupied their homes for generations", said WCC Director for International Affairs Peter Prove.

"On behalf of the global ecumenical fellowship of churches, I express our deep distress at the plight of the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah and at the unrest and violence that has ensued," said Sauca.

The proper response, he said, "must not be more violence, but compassion and justice for the Palestinian people affected by this unfair and unjust situation."

In its May 10 statement the Lutheran World Federation said it full supports its member church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and Bishop Sani-Ibrahim Azar, in denouncing the violation of the Status Quo agreement, which guarantees the three religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and two people access to their holy sites during religious celebrations,

"In light of the last days' clashes, the LWF-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives has increased its emergency response capacity. AVH stands ready to receive and treat injured individuals as per need," said the LWF.

Copyright © 2021 Ecumenical News