Advocating for the Holy Land's "Living Stones" The international community of the holy sepulchre's July 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Supporters,

July was a busy month for the International Community of the Holy Sepulchre. ICoHS joined three Churches from the Holy Land at the US State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. ICoHS accompanied His Beatitude Theophilos III, Fr Ramzi Sidawi OFM, and The Very Revd Dr Dean Hosam Naoum, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land, and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, respectively.

Alongside the Hudson Institute, ICoHS organized an event that week on “Christian Holy Sites & Holy Places in the Middle East”, which highlighted the challenges Christian communities are facing in the region while also illuminating how churches use these holy spaces to serve their wider communities. The speakers represented various churches and countries in the region, leading to rich discussions and presentations in a room of over 115 guests from around the world.

His Beatitude Theophilos III addresses over 115 people at the event "Christian Holy Sites & Holy Places in the Middle East

During this week, ICoHS also met with various Members of Congress and officials in the US Administration, continuing to raise awareness about the issue at Jaffa Gate. As discussed in last month’s newsletter, the underhand practices used by a radical settler group to seize church properties at Jaffa Gate could threaten the Christian character and integrity of Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter, as well as the Status Quo. This could impede the routes of pilgrims and cripple the Churches.

His Beatitude stands with His Eminence Elpidophoros, Archbishop of America, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

The US Government, at various levels, has previously worked with the State of Israel in the defense of Christians, and both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin have positively intervened in the past in regards to challenges facing the Christian community. In the spirit of this month’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, we are asking US government officials to encourage the Prime Minister to formally protect these properties, thereby securing the integrity and Christian character of the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Church leaders from various denominations gathered at Jaffa Gate to hold a prayer vigil for the resolution of this issue.

Church leaders from the Holy Land hold a prayer vigil at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem

Elsewhere in the Holy Land, we are troubled by attacks on Christian sites and individuals. Independent Catholic News published an article on July 23rd, reporting on damage and graffiti meant to intimidate and offend local Christians. The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and the newly released report by the Bishop of Truro are stark reminders that Christians around the world face persecution; we cannot overlook instances occurring in the birthplace of the Christian faith.

Whether in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter or in West Bank villages, physical places help us remember Christ’s ministry and a faith that spans generations and centuries, and ICoHS advocates for their protection. But we also seek to advocate on behalf of the living stones in the Holy Land – the individual followers of Christ who are the current representation of the Church that has worshipped there for nearly 2,000 years. We advocate on behalf of those facing discrimination and those working day in and day out to serve their community, ensuring all people, including Christians, can thrive at home in the Holy Land.

To stay up to date with the issues in the Holy Land, please visit the “In the News" section of 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.