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Christian Leaders on Status of Jerusalem

"City of Two Peoples and Three Religions"

JERUSALEM, OCT. 22, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the statement published by the principal Christian patriarchs and leaders of the Holy Land on the status of Jerusalem.

The statement was published Sept. 29, following the end of the Israeli-Lebanon war this summer, and highlights the need for a more concerted effort to build a lasting peace in the Middle East, beginning with Jerusalem.

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Once more, we have experienced another period of deadly violence in the war in South Lebanon. We still face more death and demolition in Gaza, and more insecurity in the Israeli society. Therefore, we say it is high time to start a serious effort from all parts for a total definitive and just peace. Moreover, we believe that peace must begin in this Holy City of Jerusalem.

Therefore, we present the following statement hoping it will bring a modest contribution to the birth of peace in our Land.

In 1994, we, the patriarchs and heads of the local Christian Churches in Jerusalem, published a memorandum entitled "The Meaning of Jerusalem for Christians" that insisted on the Christian character of Jerusalem, and on the importance of the Christian presence in her.

It also discussed the special political status that must be accorded to the city because of her sacred character. Since that time, we have witnessed the increasing tendency of the political authorities to unilaterally decide the fate of the city and define her status. The access of our faithful and our personnel to Jerusalem is ever-more difficult.

With the construction of the wall many of our faithful are excluded from the precincts of the holy city, and according to plans published in the local press, many more will also be excluded in the future. Surrounded by walls, Jerusalem is no longer at the cente and is no longer the heart of life as she should be.

We consider it part of our duty to draw the attention of the local authorities, as well as the international community and the world Churches, to this very grave situation and call for a concerted effort to search for a common vision on the status of this holy city based on international resolutions and having regard to the rights of two peoples in her and the three faith communities.

In this city, in which God chose to speak to humanity and to reconcile peoples with himself and among themselves, we raise our voices to say that the paths, followed up till now, have not brought about the pacification of the city and have not reassured normal life for her inhabitants. Therefore they must be changed. The political leaders must search for a new vision as well as for new means.

In God's own design, two peoples and three religions have been living together in this city. Our vision is that they should continue to live together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation.

1. Jerusalem, holy city and city of daily life for two peoples and three religions

Jerusalem, heritage of humanity and holy city, is also the city of daily life for her inhabitants, both Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslim, and for all who are linked to them by family ties as well as for those for whom Jerusalem is the location of their prayer, of their schools, hospitals and work places.

Not only historical memories and sacred places of pilgrimage, but also living communities of believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims, make the city of Jerusalem beloved and unique for each one of the three monotheistic faiths. Holy places and living human communities are inseparable.

In addition, both the sacred character of the holy city and the needs of her inhabitants have attracted and continue to attract numerous religious institutions. These have been recognized by the successive authorities throughout the centuries and have acquired certain rights that allow them to fulfill their obligations toward the holy city and her inhabitants.

Consequently, the fundamental rights pertaining to both individuals and institutions must be respected. For individuals, these are basic rights that permit them to exercise their religious, political and social duties and to meet their religious, educational, cultural and medical needs.

For communities, this is the right to possess, to freely administer the works necessary for their ministry and their overall human development -- churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals, social institutions, theological and biblical institutes, accommodation for pilgrims, etc. It also includes the right to bring in the personnel and avail of the means needed for the proper functioning of the institutions.

2. Requirements for a just and durable solution for the Jerusalem question

The future of the city must be decided by common agreement, through collaboration and ...

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