Christian leaders in Jerusalem speak out about dangers to the community

Senior clergy from different denominations applaud Jordan's King Abdullah II for supporting them

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City. The area, where many ancient churches are situated, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. AP
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Church leaders in Jerusalem have warned of "clear and present dangers" to the Christian presence in the city, echoing a call by Jordan's King Abdullah II last week to stop Israeli encroachment.

In a speech to the UN in New York last week, the king said that the rights of churches in Jerusalem are under threat and that Christianity must remain a main component of the city.

Old Jerusalem, where many ancient churches are situated, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

"His Majesty’s spearheading of efforts to ring the bells of warning over the deteriorating situation of Christian basic human rights sends a strong message to the world regarding the clear and present dangers surrounding the Christian heritage," read the statement, which was issued on Tuesday.

"We also applaud His Majesty’s public commitment to protect our communities’ historic and legal status quo, thus preserving our safety and future."

It was signed by 13 senior members of different denominations in the city, including Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Apostolic Administrator in the city.

Christian leaders in Jerusalem have repeatedly condemned what they regard as efforts by hardline Jewish groups to displace them.

Jordan says it has custodianship over Christian and Muslim holy places in the city. The 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel does not refer specifically to Jordanian custodianship in Jerusalem but says that Israel respects the “special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem”.

It also commits each side to “provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance”.

King Abdullah said in New York that although he is a Muslim leader, he is "committed to defending the rights, precious heritage and historic identity of the Christian people of our region”.

About 2 per cent of Jordan's 10 million people are Christian.

Updated: September 28, 2022, 2:17 PM