Dear Friends and Supporters,
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across the globe, disrupting normal rhythms of everyday life. Since the start of the year, our team had been earnestly preparing for our launch event with HM King Abdullah II of Jordan, which was scheduled to take place 21st April. This has now been postponed until the autumn, but our efforts to support the churches continue.
In a matter of a few weeks, Jerusalem looks and feels like a very different city. With churches now closed and virtually no pilgrims around, the Jerusalem of a few weeks ago is very different to the Jerusalem of today.
A busy Holy Sepulchre courtyard, December 2019
Notably, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now closed to visitors. Authorities said the church could be closed for at least a week, but many expect the closure to be for much longer and until it is deemed safe for groups of pilgrims and visitors to return. Measures this drastic have not been seen for nearly 700 years.
An empty Holy Sepulchre courtyard, March 2020
With the significant drop in pilgrims, many Christian-owned and run businesses are struggling. We ask you to keep them in your prayers during this difficult time. ICoHS is working to establish a fund to help these businesses, which we hope to have running in the coming weeks.
Beyond the liturgies and services, many church-run hospitals and clinics are on the front lines of this pandemic, providing urgent health care to the sick. We are working hard to find specific ways we can help and be praying for these hospitals and clinics, and we will forward that information onto you in due course.
Despite the quiet streets and the closed doors of churches, Christians in the Holy Land continue to worship and serve in the city of resurrection. As Easter approaches and the world’s gaze turns towards Jerusalem, monks continue to worship inside the Holy Sepulchre and clergy continue to hold services in their own places of worship. Catholic services can be live-streamed here and the Greek Orthodox Church streams their services onto their facebook page.
Whether in Jerusalem, the UK, or the US, Easter will look very different for most of us. However, the fundamental truth and promise of Easter remains. It reminds us of the power of resurrection and that hope ultimately prevails.
This month, we leave you with a quote from Bishop Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land:
“This is not a time to turn inward but to look outward — even from our own homes — considering how we can care for one another. Calling our friends and family, praying for one another, sharing resources as we are able: this is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus, who shared His love with us all the way to the cross.”
To stay up to date with the issues in the Holy Land, please visit the “In the News" section of our website. Additionally, past newsletters can now be found on our website.
The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre helps the Churches in the Holy Land raise international awareness of the challenges that Christians face in the region while promoting the flourishing of all people in the Middle East. To learn more, visit us at www.icohs.org.