I join a growing chorus of voices raising serious concerns over President Donald Trump’s December 6th declaration that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and his decision to relocate the US Embassy Office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Numerous world leaders have reacted with dismay.
In advance of Trump’s intention to take such action, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including the Anglican Archbishop Suheil Dawani had written him a letter. Here is an excerpt.
“We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land moving us further from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division. We ask you, Mr. President, to help us all walk toward more love and a definitive peace which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all.
Our solemn advice and pleas is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfil its destiny.
The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people, that live within it, from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing.”
Choosing to ignore this wise and godly counsel, the President proceeded with his intentions. His unilateral action has unsettled the entire Middle East and plunged Jerusalem into chaos. Violence has erupted in the streets. Flags are being burned. People are fearful. Schools and shops have had to be closed. It is hard not to imagine that access to religious sites dear to Jews, Christians and Muslims may be restricted in coming days.
Many see the President’s action as having precipitated a serious setback on the peace process. They contend and rightly so, that any change in the status of Jerusalem can only emerge from that process. As complex as it is, it has until now been borne of a vision of justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike. May the keepers of that vision remain vigilant.
I ask your prayers for Jerusalem and The Land of the Holy One. Pray for those who are suffering physically, emotionally, spiritually and for all who minister among them. Pray for the Patriarchy and Heads of Churches. Pray for the Chief Rabbi. Pray for the Grand Mufti. Pray for all in public office who are committed to measures to de-escalate the level of conflict and restore calm and order. Pray for the city so that as the Psalmist says, its peoples will know “peace within its walls and quietness within its towers”. (Psalm 122:7)
Within but a few weeks the eyes of all Christians will be turned toward Jerusalem and to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus our Lord. May we turn not only our eyes, but our hearts as well, and may they beat anew to the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth”. (Luke 2:14)
Archbishop Fred Hiltz
December 8, 2017