A new bloodshed in the Middle East arouses a special anxiety in the Russian Orthodox Church. The faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate are concerned for the safety of the peaceful citizens of various nationalities and faiths living in the Holy Land. At the same time, we are concerned for the fate of the great biblical shrines located in that region.
By virtue of its history and geographical location the Holy Land is a place where people of various ethnic backgrounds and followers of the three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam have co-existed. Consequently, only one national or religious group cannot prevail in this sacred land. The Holy Land must become a hospitable home for everybody, not only the Israeli and the Palestinians, but any person. Christian, Muslim and Judaic shrines should be preserved there with respect for the legitimate rights of every inhabitant of that land and every pilgrim who wishes to visit freely the places of worship.
Today the Holy Land has been blasphemously defiled with enmity and stained with blood. We mourn every victim, condemning violence against civilians. We, who have survived many wars and terrorist actions, are horrified by the killing of innocent people in Jewish cities and districts. We are especially saddened by the fact that terrorist suicides have been used to kill, which contradicts the teaching of every religion. We also mourn and protest seeing the life and freedoms of peaceful Palestinians trampled upon and their houses and property destroyed.
We are shocked by the abuse of shrines, the use of buildings and territories which belong to religious organizations for violent struggle. There is an extremely acute confrontation developed around the great shrine – the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem. Our Church urges that that any violent action in the place of the Nativity of Christ be abandoned and armed people be withdrawn from it.
It causes alarm to see the Arab civil self-organizations structures slackened forcibly and attempts made to deligitimatize the Palestinian National Administration. These actions can lead to a complete breakdown in the negotiation process and to the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their internationally recognized right to create a state of their own. We remind all that the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem in their joint statement made on March 9 reiterated that it is important that “the Palestinians may enjoy their rights as represented in the International Legitimacy”.
Peace must return to the Holy Land. It is our profound conviction that to this end it is necessary first of all to stop all the hostilities and to return to responsible dialogue. The Palestinian side should unconditionally stop terrorist actions against civilians, while Israel should withdraw its troops from Arab cities and return to the Palestinian leader the freedom to communicate with the world and his compatriots.
We ask the leadership of the Russian Federation, the United States of America, the United Nations and the European Union to exert every effort to establish peace in the conflict region and to ensure there the implementation of the decisions made by the world community.
Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta's posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he 'had something urgent to tell me', after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.