World Council of Churches raises concerns as Israel bars Orthodox Christians from Holy Land site

Ahram Online , Wednesday 23 Aug 2023

General secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Prof. Dr. Jerry Pillay expressed concern on Tuesday over religious freedom violations in the Holy Land after Israel barred Orthodox Christians from accessing Mount Tabor, the sacred site of Jesus' transfiguration.

Mount Tabor
File photo: The Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, in Israel s Lower Galilee. AFP


“No less than 1,000 cars waited at multiple checkpoints set up by the Israeli police, and were consequently delayed for two-and-a-half hours,” said Pillay. "Among those who were stopped was Dr. Audeh Quawas, executive committee member of the World Council of Churches.”

Upon being stopped, worshippers were surprised to learn that a ban was issued preventing gatherings at the holy site and the surrounding area, with police citing 'safety concerns' for participants. The ban was issued despite an agreement with authorities days prior regarding the event.

“A few days previously, a meeting took place between the Orthodox Council in Nazareth and the Israeli authorities, where it was agreed that the event would take place,” said the general secretary. “This impediment to the Christian celebration on Mount Tabor comes in the aftermath of repeated harassment of Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere.”

In response to the continued harassment, Jerusalem churches have issued statements calling for assistance in the protection of indigenous Christians and their collective rights within the holy city.

“The World Council of Churches views with concern the infringement on religious freedom, the denial of worship, and the constraints on the life of the Christian community in the Holy Land under the pretext of safety and security, as unacceptable,” said Pillay.

“The World Council of Churches calls upon the government of Israel to allow Christian worship and community events to proceed freely, and to protect the rights of religious freedom for all people.”

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