Christians from throughout the world want it known that they believe the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is a serious blow to efforts for a just and sustainable peace in the Holy Land, and risks provoking further conflict in the region.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has long viewed Jerusalem as a city shared by two peoples and holy to three religions. This position was reaffirmed in a statement issued on 6 December by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressing grave concern over President Trump’s announcement.
“Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled,” stated Tveit.
“It also pre-empts a negotiated resolution of this most difficult issue in any final peace agreement, which must be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”
On the same date, the heads of local churches representing Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land wrote an open letter to President Trump.
In this letter they said that “we have been following, with concern, the reports about the possibility of changing how the United States understands and deals with the status of Jerusalem.
“We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.”
The “solemn advice” and plea of the Jerusalem church leaders to the U.S. president is “for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem”.
They said any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm.
“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,” they asserted.
The church leaders also appealed to President Trump in the spirit of Christmas, the “feast of peace…for Jerusalem not to be deprived from peace”, asking him to “listen to the song of the angels”.
The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has also affirmed their opposition to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
They reminded the president that in 1980 the NCC adopted a policy statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In that statement, the NCC said, “Unilateral actions by any one group in relation to Jerusalem will only perpetuate antagonisms that will threaten the peace of the city and possibly of the region.” And in 2007, the NCC again affirmed the vision of a shared Jerusalem.
“We reiterate those statements today. For decades, U.S. presidents have acted with prudence and caution regarding Jerusalem. President Trump’s actions threaten to unleash violence throughout the region and severely damage any remaining U.S. diplomatic credibility to act as a broker for a peace agreement.”
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) also sent to an open letter to President Trump.
The LWF president, Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa of Nigeria, and general secretary, Rev. Dr Martin Junge, expressed “deep dismay over the news” that the U.S. is considering relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv.
“This unilateral action contravenes the long-held position of the international community according to which Jerusalem is a city shared by two people and three religions,” the LWF leaders said.
They express deep concern that “such a move will thwart the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and trigger widespread violence in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The Middle East and the world need peace, not more violence.”
Pope Francis appeared for wisdom and prudence to prevail over Jerusalem. “I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts” he said.
In South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu also condemned President Trump's decision regarding the status of Jerusalem.
“God is weeping over President Donald Trump's inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is our responsibility to tell Mr Trump that he is wrong,” said Tutu.
The Catholic peace movement Pax Christi International said it is “appalled” by Trump’s decision, due to “the devastating consequences it will have for reaching a just resolution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [WCC News]