Media Office of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) USA – On April 19, 2016, The Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and the Holy Land was held at the Carter Center in Atlanta. The conference, entitled “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence” was coordinated by the Higher Committee of Churches’ Affairs in Palestine.
The conference dealt with many issues pertaining to the plight of the Palestinian people, the daily hassles that they face passing through Israeli checkpoints and preventing them from accessing holy sites.
In a speech by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, he said: “in light of the continuing tragedy and injustice being perpetrated against the Palestinians, don’t allow the continuing failure of the US government to find a solution but instead you should become stronger advocates”. He added “One of our major challenges is standing alongside all those trying to find a solution to issues that spark violence, conflict and war, like building of new settlements. Therefore Church leaders must have the courage to speak up for justice and freedom, for Jews and Arabs alike.” At the same time the Patriarch emphasized that reaching this aim requires using means that are coherent with the Christian identity.
Another challenge that the church in the Holy Land faces is persuading the faithful to stay and build their future in a land where many of them feel marginalized and threatened. “This challenge requires us to be more creative and effective in addressing job training, employment and housing issues.” He added “The Church must be capable of exciting the energies of all men and women of good will in the service of education, spiritual, political and economic development. We have what it needs to build the culture of peace and mutual respect which will guarantee a better future for our children.”
In a region where building walls that separate one community from another is the norm, the Church open her doors to all regardless of their religion, gender or nationality. “Our Church must use her potential and good relations with the Universal Church and worldwide humanitarian and religious organizations for greater solidarity and advocacy to break down all kinds of walls. All our institutions contribute to be grounds of encounter and dialogue to create new mentality and a new generation of leaders for a new society”.
Beside Patriarch Twal, five other Church leaders from the Holy Land were present at the conference; His Beatitude Theophilos III, Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; Father Ibrahim Faltas, Treasurer of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. George Ayyoub, Chancellor at the Latin Patriarchate; Bishop Mounib Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; Fr. Mitri Raheb, director of Dar Annadwa College.