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Jerusalem church leaders appeal for ceasefire in meeting with Israeli president

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Jerusalem church leaders with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.(Photo: Israeli government press office)

Jerusalem church leaders have met Israeli President Isaac Herzog to appeal for “an immediate and permanent humanitarian ceasefire”. 

They said that their meeting with Herzog was “not a mere exchange of Holiday Season pleasantries” but was held with the purpose of “conveying the global ecclesiastical stance, demanding, on behalf of Christians worldwide, an immediate cessation of the bloodshed in Gaza”. 

They also raised concerns about the plight of civilians and restrictions on movement imposed in the West Bank, “especially those around Bethlehem during the holiday season.”

A clarification was issued after the meeting earlier this week in which the Jerusalem patriarchs and church heads accused the Israeli media of presenting a “distorted narrative … leading to a complete misrepresentation of the meeting and its goals”.

“The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches reiterated that their consistent message since the beginning of the war on Gaza is: an immediate and permanent humanitarian ceasefire, the protection of civilians, and the safeguarding of institutions providing services to them,” their statement said.

“They emphasized that this stance was at the core of the meeting, and anything discussed outside this framework aims to tarnish the image of the Christians and the Churches, serving political agendas that the churches abstain from engaging in or addressing.” 

The church leaders have repeated their appeals for peace in a joint Christmas message in which they lament the “unimaginable suffering” caused by the war between Israel and Gaza.

“We, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, convey our Christmas greetings to the faithful around the world in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, born here in Bethlehem more than two-thousand years ago,” they said. 

“In extending these greetings, we are well aware that we do so during a time of great calamity in the land of our Lord’s birth. For over the past two-and-a-half months, the violence of warfare has led to unimaginable suffering for literally millions in our beloved Holy Land.

“Its ongoing horrors have brought misery and inconsolable sorrow to countless families throughout our region, evoking empathetic cries of anguish from all quarters of the earth. For those caught in the midst of such dire circumstances, hope seems distant and beyond reach.

“Yet it was into such a world that our Lord himself was born in order to give us hope. Here, we must remember that during the first Christmas, the situation was not far removed from that of today.”

President Herzog told the church leaders that the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas are “incompatible” with the teachings of Jesus.

“Evil forces of the worst kind carried out a barbaric, sadistic attack, killing innocent women, children, old people, young people, people from 40 nationalities, taking hostages, raping, chopping heads, burning people and more,” he said.

“Nothing of this is compatible with the Gospels, with the writing of the Gospels, with the teaching of Jesus Christ, or the teachings of course of the Jewish faith, and also with moderate Islam.

“Our problem—all of us—is with extreme fundamentalist Islam, which does not accommodate you or us. It’s an expression of an empire of evil that emanates from Tehran, which believes in jihadist ideology, which we all have to eradicate. And that is why this war was forced upon us.”





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