World Council of Churches has 'grave concern' over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)Two key symbols of Judaism, the Western Wall, and for Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, stand side by side in Jerusalem as seen on Feb. 11, 2016.

The World Council of Churches has joined other global Christian leaders in expressing grave concern for the Middle East region and the wider international community at the decision of President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled," said the WCC which represents more than half a billlion mainly, Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christians worldwide.

In a statement from its Geneva-headquarters Dec. 6, the WCC said the move "also pre-empts a negotiated resolution of this most difficult issue in any final peace agreement, which must be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians themselves."

The head of churches Christian patriarchs in Jerusalem also lamented Trump's decision to recognize the ancient city as Israel's capital, while calling for its international status be retained.

"We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land," the leaders said in a letter to Trump, "moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division."

Thirteen heads and patriarchs signed the letter. They represent various branches of the Christian faith, including Greek, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox churches; Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and Lutherans.

Some of them are Palestinian, and most share space in the revered Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem's Old City. Most Christian tradition holds that the church is located at the site of the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem," the churchmen said. "Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm.... In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived from peace."

The council said that along with all Christians around the world, the churches that belong to the WCC, look to the Holy City of Jerusalem as the "location of the foundational event at the origins of our faith."

The churches' council said it recognizes Jerusalem as a city of three faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians).

"We also recognize the central significance and acute political, social and religious sensitivity of the status of Jerusalem in any final and sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

The churches' council said it shares the concerns expressed by King Abdullah II of Jordan that the measure of Trump's administration will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East.

"It will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Palestinian Muslims and Christians alike. Together with King Abdullah, we also stress that 'Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and security in the world.'"

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