This is where you and I can serve as guidance to create a balance in a society based on agreed facts by all sides, and the American Administration should stay out of it, peace comes from understanding and not influencing, enforcing, bribing or appeasing. No nation or individual will live in comfort, when injustice remains in currency.
A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians
There is so much to know and so much to attend. However, we tend to attend to issues that are shared by friends. The following two pieces have compelled me to respond.
As humans, we are instinctively inclined to take sides and give strength to one of the two positions in a given situation. We do that because standing for a friend, a fellow you know, even the family members sounds like the right thing to do.
It is not.
The right thing to do is to find lasting solutions and not emotional solutions for the moment.
That is what the United States and Arab Nations have done in messing up the security for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. Both of us have recklessly and unconditionally supported the conflict and positions of each side, rather than focusing on getting the parties to sit down and find lasting solutions. They would have done it, had we, the Americans and the Arabs not beefed up their positions.
In the two notes below, I see the same pattern and I chose to remain not taking sides. As a peace maker that would be wronging the Israelis and the Palestinian Christians.
Until the myths (to the other) and facts (to the other) are cleared up, where both sides agree to the “agreed facts” Ill-will continues. We cannot deny the issues, and neither should be brush them aside – they will be nagging eternally.
It is in Israel’s interest to have a public forum with open invitations to discuss this including the writer of the article below. They must avoid temptations to bring “their” folks to the conversation, bring the ones who see the issues. Truth is the only thing that triumphs; it will restore the trust in the society and removes on more battle off the field.
What is your take?
Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, commentator on national radio network, writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and bi monthly at Huffington post, and other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com
From a friend:
False information that drives wedges between people should be exposed. I hope you pass the word along. Hope this finds you and your family well. We are blessed by a 3 week visit from our son from Tel Aviv.
Earlier last week the article below appeared in the Washington Post. It claims that Israel unduly restricts Christian travel to Jerusalem. Ambassador Oren has written a passionate response (also below) in which he declares that this is nothing short of libel against the Jewish State. I believe Amb Oren’s response includes information worth knowing. Although the Washington Post is not widely read in Dallas, this still may be a topic of conversation among our friends in the Christian community.
A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians
By Richard Stearns| Religion News Service, Published: April 4
Each year during Holy week, Christians around the world anticipate what come call the “Old Faithful” of miracles.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — built over the traditional site that encompasses Jesus’ tomb and the place of his crucifixion — the archbishop enters the tomb after being inspected by Jewish authorities to ensure he has no means of lighting a fire. After saying prayers and worshiping the risen Christ, the candles miraculously alight.
The ceremony has been performed for centuries; records of the event reach back to the ninth century. Across more than a millennium of Muslim, European, or Jewish rule, the purported miracle has been an inspiration to thousands of pilgrims who flock to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to spread the fire into the rest of Jerusalem.
Once it is brought out of the tomb, the light is spread from person to person, candle by candle, and out into the world. It is a beautiful sight as worshipers from different Christian traditions line the darkened streets holding candles and spreading the light of Jesus Christ. The ceremony reflects the peaceful spread of Jesus’ message from one person to another. Called “Holy Fire Saturday,” this event also prefigures the Easter celebration the following day in which Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death itself.
While Christians mark Christmas as the “silent night” in which God himself took on human flesh, on Easter we proclaim, “Christ the Lord is risen today,” in the words of the old hymn. It’s a miracle not of light, but of life defeating death.
But for the past several years in Jerusalem, the mood on Holy Saturday and the rest of Holy Week has not been one of rejoicing and triumph but instead one of trial and tribulation.
Because of travel restrictions in past years, the vast majority of Christians living in the West Bank have been stopped at checkpoints and prevented from attending one of the most important religious services of the year. Israeli authorities require permits for entering Jerusalem. Local Christians estimate that only 2,000 — 3,000 permits are provided, despite the overwhelming desire among the 50,000 Palestinian Christians to travel from the West Bank and Gaza for the Easter week celebrations in Jerusalem.
Those who make it across checkpoints and into Israel are still barricaded by numerous walls and other security obstructions. As a result, even many who have permits are unable to make it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 2010, a Palestinian colleague of mine at World Vision, who had warm memories as a child of the Holy Fire service, was able to return to the Holy Sepulchre. She described the scene for those able to gain entrance to the church: “The crowd, striving to stay joyful, could still feel the change of what Easter had now become and the dark cloud of checkpoints, police forces, and denial of entry that had obscured the joy of this holiday.”
While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle — one that would give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. Holy Week has long been a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Christians have worshiped there since the birth of the church, and these sites are a core aspect of the devotion of Palestinian believers.
The restrictions on travel for worship are not only in force during Holy Week, but also for routine Sunday services, weddings, funerals, and baptisms throughout the year. Certainly, Israel can take care of its own security concerns while accommodating peaceful Palestinian Christian worship.
In a recent letter by 80 Palestinian Christian leaders, including the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians spoke out against the lack of religious freedom inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. They complained of being forced to endure an “assault on our natural and basic right to worship.”
Along with the rest of the world’s Christians, I celebrate a God who brings light from darkness and life from death. And I pray for another miracle this Holy Fire Saturday, one that would remove all restrictions on the freedom to worship for the Christians of the Holy Land.
(Richard Stearns is the U.S. president of World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian agency.)
A response from Ambassador Michael Oren
By Michael Oren| Religion News Service, Published: April 5
Following is a statement from Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in response to a guest commentary by Richard Stearns, the U.S. president of the Christian humanitarian group World Vision, that appeared in Religion News Service on Wednesday (April 4):
“The claims made in a recent article by Richard Stearns (”A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians”) are completely without foundation and are libelous to the State of Israel.
“Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.
“With the exception of the very few individuals who have raised security concerns, and not withstanding the measures we must take to protect our citizens, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish State.
“Israel, the only Middle Eastern country with a growing and thriving Christian population, remains committed to maintaining its superb relations with Christian communities worldwide. Though we face serious and continuing defense challenges, we uphold the principle of free access to the Holy Places to all religions. On this year, as in all previous years, we wish Christians throughout the world a joyous holiday.”