Salaam and grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and blessed greetings from Jerusalem.
We are still in Easter Week and events are moving rather quickly with more tragedies and more killings and suffering. These are times of great suffering for the Palestinian people, and for the Church in Palestine. All of our Palestinian cities are now occupied by Israel and the people are prevented from leaving their houses.
For two days in a row the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have arranged marches and demonstrations; one in Jerusalem leading to the house of the Prime Minister, protesting against the government’s unimaginable retaliation in our cities and among our people; the other was at the Bethlehem checkpoint. The soldiers prevented our entry to the city, despite the fact that we made it clear that we were marching in search for peace, and as peacemakers.
On the same day as we were trying to enter Bethlehem, another demonstration was taking place near the Qalandya checkpoint leading to Ramallah. This was attended by thousands of peace activists, both Israelis and Palestinians, and other internationals. Among those present were the mayor of Nazareth, Mr Ramiz Jaraysi, and all Arab members of the Israeli Knesset. The reports came of a real battle between the soldiers and the demonstrators. A rubber bullet hit Mr Jaraysi, the mayor of Nazareth, in his shoulder, close to his neck, thereby endangering his life. Two Knesset members, Ahmad Tibi, and Muhammad Barakeh, have been injured seriously and are being treated in hospitals. Knesset member, Azmi Bisharah, lost consciousness due to the tear gas.
Our people need to breathe a little. Every day tens of lives are being taken away. In Bethlehem a few nuns have been injured, with a priest, and yesterday two people were killed as they were inside Church buildings. A mother and her son were also killed in their own house, and the soldiers refused to release the bodies for 48 hours, and left them bleeding until the moment of death.
Today, the main entrance to the Church of the Nativity was blown off, creating fear and horror among the priests and monks living in the compound and those taking refuge in the Church with them. All this while there are not sufficient food supplies in the convent. The humanitarian side has been totally and wholly absent from the face of innocent people. People cannot even go to Church. For all this and numerous other horrifying stories, I ask you to keep up your prayers.
Have a blessed Easter Season; know that this comes with my prayers and best wishes.
+Rt Revd Riah Abu El-Assal
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