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Welcome by Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Patr em., June 20, 2017

Churches of the Holy Land, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Patr em., June 20, 2017 – Beth Sahour

21 June 2017

Churches of the Holy Land
Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Patr em.
June 20, 2017 – Beth Sahour

On behalf of the Churches of the Holy Land, I welcome you in this city of the shepherds, where, centuries ago, the angels sung, and where we are still hearing them: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to people of good will" (Lk 2: 14). At the same time, many are not hearing, and we are still experiencing war instead of peace.

I thank you, I thank the WCC, for your continual solidarity, for your words and action for justice and peace in this Holy Land.

In the Holy Land, whatever the appearances, whatever the local or world media say, we are always in a situation of war, which began and has never ended. We are always under military occupation.

The land of redemption of the world, itself needs redemption. It needs healing. The peoples who live here, the oppressed Palestinians, need healing, which means an end of the occupation. The occupiers, the Israelis, need healing from being oppressors and occupiers. The Israelis need not remain occupiers, or in a situation in which their life and security require the death or lack of freedom of Palestinians.

All Israelis and all Palestinians, all believers in the holiness of this land, ask: will this land remain a land of death for ever, instead of being what it is, what God called it for, to be a land of promises, of "milk and honey," a land of the resurrection?

The healing, the political and human healing of Jerusalem, will also be the healing of the region, and the healing of so many consciences here and in the world.

Who can heal Jerusalem? Israelis authorities say: no need for healing. They alone know what is right and they are doing it. Which means: all doors for any way of healing are closed.

The world powers have abdicated their responsibility. They are showing  their impotence; they are unable to impose peace and justice. They know what is wrong in this country. But they are unable to take any action. They try to compensate for their impotence in what regards justice by offering financial or humanitarian help to Palestinians. But financial and humanitarian help does not replace justice, it does not end the occupation, and it does not bring healing to both peoples in the land, Israelis and Palestinians.

The world leaders have abdicated their duty.

Will the world churches also abdicate, and silence their prophetical voice and action?

The only remaining hope is in the churches’ prophetic voice and action. Today, gathered here in Palestine, in the city of the Prince of Peace, we tell you: Do not be afraid. Do not fall in the "fear" of the world political powers. Do not abdicate. Do not silence in yourselves the voice of God, who is a God of love, not a God of war.

Educate your peoples and your political leaders. Educate your peoples to elect rulers who are not silent and impotent. Leaders who can see that this holy land is still in need of healing and who have the courage to assume their responsibilities and to heal.

You are also aware, through your own experience, that any true peace maker in this land will be accused with all kinds of accusations; he or she may be exposed to all kinds of opposition. Our action and yours as churches is not easy, it can become a martyr’s action. Nevertheless, remain churches, do what a church must do, what a believer in God's love for all must do, even if you will suffer.

Jesus said: "In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works" (Jn 14: 12). We are, you are as powerful as Jesus. Jesus said it. In all domains, in the domain of the spirit for the salvation of the world. Peace making is "salvation of the world."

This is what Jesus says even today. He said that we and you, we can perform even greater works than he. A greater work today is peace and justice here in this land from where you received faith in Jesus Christ. It will be peace for Jerusalem, it will be peace for the region, it will be peace for the world.

According to the word of Jesus: You can, we can, you can heal this land and the whole world.