By Michel Nseir
The Christian community in the Holy Land is protesting against the denial of freedom of worship by the Israeli occupation police during the forthcoming Easter celebrations. Palestinian Christians have complained that Israeli Police are due to impose restrictions and limit the movement of all Christian worshippers during the celebrations. These restrictions will, in particular, affect Holy Fire Saturday in Jerusalem, which has been celebrated since 1106 AD. The celebrations have been governed for the past decades by the status quo of 1852 covering processions within the boundaries of the Holy Sepulchre Church in addition to traditions by the local community and pilgrims in its vicinity.
Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Fire Saturday and Easter Sunday are the holiest days celebrated by Christians in Jerusalem. Despite this, they are denied the fundamental right to practice their religion freely because of road blocks in the old city, the armed police presence and the rude and hostile attitude of police and Israeli army officers. Curfews and forced closures make movement almost impossible whereas, in sharp contrast, Israel allows Jews free access to their holy sites.
Today when a debate has been initiated regarding freedom of worship in Jerusalem due to the constant settler aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque (Al-Haram Al-Sharif) and despite the fact that Israeli officials have made public assurances that "only Israel" can keep freedom of religion in Jerusalem, Christians in the Holy Land denounce Israel's discriminatory and restrictive policies. Palestinian Christian organizations in occupied East Jerusalem have initiated a legal process "to preserve the right to access our churches and shrines freely".
Palestinian Christians now "call upon the international community, particularly the Christian World, including its churches and civil society, to put pressure on Israel to end the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem as well as in this case to stop limiting Holy Land Christians from exercising their basic religious rights."
The writer is the Programme Executive of the public witness programme with special focus on the Middle East at the World Council of Churches
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.