On Wednesday 23, July, 2014, I was invited by the Sir Rateb Y. Rabbie, President/CEO of the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) to a dinner given in honor of His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem – head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
His Beatitude had come to Washington, DC to meet with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to discuss the grave challenges facing Christians in the Holy Land. The lively and open discussion focused on the situation of religious freedom in the Holy Land, where His Beatitude shepherds a flock of over 160,000 Roman Catholics living in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
At the time of the meeting, there was a dire situation in Gaza: “Both Christian and Muslim alike, are being traumatized by the excessive use of force. The result is that many civilians, including women and children, are suffering” said Patriarch Twal at the meeting with USCIRF. Since this meeting, there is a cease-fire in Gaza. In the wake of this last violence, more than 2,100 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed along with six civilians, and more than 17,000 homes have been destroyed. Nothing has been gained except more tension, suffering, death and hate, to all who desire and revel in conflict.
At the dinner, His Beatitude addressed those present and said something that moved all of us, “The church of the Holy Land is a church of Calvary.” The church there is caught in the middle between an ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that is often described as a war between Jews and Muslims. In the crossfire, Christians carry their great Cross following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus. The Christians in the Holy Land continue to proclaim a non-partisan truth that advocates for justice and fundamental human rights on both parts. This is a position that could be useful in brokering peace but there are few in the political sphere that seem to care enough to take advantage of this.
Another significant comment made by Patriarch Twal was that as the final preparations were being made for the historic meeting at the Vatican, on June 8, between Pope Francis and the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry, on June 5, approved construction of 1,500 housing units on the West Bank. The Patriarch said, “We were all in shock” when they heard the news. Shocked at the blatant disregard for any attempt at reconciliation and peace!
When it comes to peace in the Holy Land, we can only conclude that the demon Legion still lives not just in the region of the Gerasenes but in a significant part of the Holy Land itself. Those impure spirits that benefit from war and death and have no interest in peace live among the tombs, spiritually speaking, for they are spiritually dead.
Whether Israeli or Palestinian, those that are not interested in peace may say, “there are many of us” and they may cry out for blood cutting themselves with stones, yet the day will come when the Son of the Most High will come in power and glory. And he will exorcise the Holy Land once and for all and say to those that live in that war torn land – “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Let us all keep Patriarch Twal and all the people in the Holy Land – Jews, Muslims, and Christians – in our prayers that they may enjoy the gift of peace, first in their hearts and then among their people.