King meets Christian leaders, figures from Jordan, Jerusalem
17 December 2017
His Majesty King Abdullah met on Sunday at the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (Bethany beyond the Jordan) with Christian religious leaders and figures from Jordan and Jerusalem on the occasions of Christmas and the New Year.
During the meeting, attended by His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed, His Majesty’s chief adviser for religious and cultural affairs and personal envoy, King Abdullah expressed his best wishes to Christians in Jordan and Palestine, as well as to all Arab Christians, on the two occasions.
His Majesty affirmed the strong values of interfaith harmony and brotherhood among Muslims and Christians in Jordan, which is a model of harmony and coexistence.
The meeting also symbolised solidarity with Jerusalem and Jerusalemites—Muslims and Christians—after the churches of the holy city, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jordan decided to turn their season celebrations into expressions of solidarity with Jerusalem, in rejection of the United States’ decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.
At a luncheon hosted by His Majesty in honour of the attendees, the King asserted that Muslims and Christians are one family in Jordan, working for the nation’s prosperity.
The King reiterated his support for the perseverance of churches in the holy land and their efforts to preserve their holy sites and property.
His Majesty expressed appreciation for the churches and Islamic Awqaf of Jerusalem for honouring the Pact of Omar, which established the values of coexistence and peace in the holy city.
The King voiced commitment to the historical duty of safeguarding holy sites in Jerusalem, a mission that dates back to the time of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, His Majesty’s great-grandfather.
His Majesty said the US decision on Jerusalem violates international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, stressing that any measures that alter the legal and historical status of Jerusalem are null and void.
The right of Muslims and Christians to Jerusalem is eternal, the King reaffirmed.
For their part, the attendees expressed appreciation for His Majesty’s efforts to defend Jerusalem and support the steadfastness of Jerusalemites, noting the King’s status as Custodian of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites.
They reiterated their rejection of the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, describing it as an illegal step that undermines peace and violates the teachings of Christianity.
The religious leaders expressed support for His Majesty’s recent speech at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Extraordinary Summit, and the King’s affirmation that the right of Muslims and Christians to Jerusalem is eternal.
They urged His Majesty to address the United Nations, UNESCO and various international fora on behalf of all Churches.
The speakers also denounced attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and alter its Arab identity.
Prime Minister Hani Mulki, Royal Hashemite Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh, Director of the Office of His Majesty Jafar Hassan, Chief Islamic Justice Abdul Karim Khasawneh, Grand Mufti Mohammad Khalaileh, and a number of ministers and senior officials attended the meeting.
Following are the full remarks of the speakers:
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos III:
Address by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City and all Jordan and Palestine,
Your Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein,
Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites, and the protector of the holy sites in Jerusalem,
Blessed greetings from Jerusalem,
We see in your presence, as we have always seen, the great love and loyalty to the holy city, and in these days, when Jerusalem sleeps with its wounds, it sees in your eyes, Your Majesty, the spark of hope and senses from the brave people of Jordan, the deep devotion of its sacred soil, that still carries the blood of your brave soldiers, and the blood of your martyred grandfather, the founding King Abdullah I, may God bless his soul.
I come today, carrying from the land of Nativity and Resurrection, the land of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, enormous gratitude. I stand witness to your great devotion to Jerusalem, as the rightful custodian over its holy sites.
Your Majesty, there is none more able to protect Jerusalem better than you, for you are the most dedicated and honest in defending its cause and safeguarding its Christian holy sites, as you also protect its Islamic holy sites.
This is how we have always regarded you, Your Majesty. You are the heir of the Pact of Omar, which laid the foundations of Muslim-Christian coexistence and maintained a flourishing Islamic and Christian civilisation in our holy lands.
For us, Your Majesty, you represent an icon of love and peace, which was embodied when the Patriarch of the Holy City, Saint Sophronius, met with Caliph Al-Faruq Omar bin Al Khattab, bringing together the first Christian-Muslim spiritual encounter in Jerusalem.
Today, we emphasise the most important principles of the Pact of Omar: that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is for Christians and Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram Al Sharif is for Muslims. Based on this fact, the Churches of Jerusalem will not hesitate to protect Islamic holy sites, just as the Jerusalem Awqaf protect our safety and property whenever we are threatened.
I came here today to renew the pledge of allegiance to you, as you uphold the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem, with its unique status, and as you address international fora on behalf of Palestine, as the custodian of its holy sites.
I came to you, with the modesty of nativity and the great meanings of resurrection, to deliver to your generous hands the file of our Orthodox Church of Jerusalem “The Mother of All Churches”, not to burden you more, but because we have great trust in you. You are the most capable of addressing the world, not in the name of Palestine alone, but also in the name of the “Mother of All Churches”, based on your concern for the Christians of the Levant, which is burdened by the pains of extremism and discrimination. We strongly believe that you are the voice of truth that will always prevail.
I stand here to reaffirm my allegiance to you, just like the scholars, leaders, and people of Jerusalem and Palestine stood on 11 March 1924, pledging their allegiance to your great grandfather Sharif Hussein bin Ali, may God bless him and grant him peace.
We renew our pledge to unite our love for Jerusalem. We affirm our deep pride in the positions of the Hashemites and the steadfastness of the brave, loyal Amman that has never hesitated to hold Jerusalem with love without bias or discrimination. Jerusalem, Christians and Muslims alike, have always been in the conscience of the Hashemites and in the hearts of all Jordanians throughout history.
Our Holy Church was founded in Jerusalem as the first Church and "Mother of All Churches.". Today, its property is subject to greater greed, restrictions, and violations. The case of Bab Al Khalil stands as testament to the kind of conspiracies and attempts on church property, in an attempt to change the identity and history of the holy city.
Your Majesty, the Custodian,
The politicisation of Jerusalem, attempts to dominate it, and the undermining of the existing status quo is a desecration of its sanctity, a threat to its history and its existence, and a destruction of its holy sites and civilisation. It deals a serious blow to relevant UN resolutions and threatens to end peace in the city of peace.
From the land of Baptism, where Christianity was launched into the world. We call on the people of conscience and good intentions to stand against any violation facing Jerusalem, its holy sites and people; to pay attention to their duties in protecting the holy city; and to support your efforts in protecting holy sites in Jerusalem, in order for Jerusalem to remain the capital of spiritual and human values, and a n example of harmony among people of different faiths and nationalities, so that the blessings and grace of God will remain present.
Jerusalem, Your Majesty, is walking on a new Via Dolorosa today, where this city has been known as the most sacred path of pain experienced by the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which was completed with the glorious resurrection, to declare that after death comes a resurrection and life, and no matter how strong injustice can be, justice will prevail, because evil is doomed to end. This is the message of our Holy Church to our people in these difficult days: we must not lose hope; we must seek strength from faith, hope and love; and we must preserve our national unity and harmony, and the vibrant Christian presence in our holy land. There are many who wish for an East without Christians, and we tell them that we are here to stay. We look towards Jerusalem in our prayers, and we are ready to sacrifice everything to protect it.
We are here, Your Majesty, appreciating your continued sincere efforts to protect Christian presence, and your keen interest in supporting our affairs in the Jerusalem Orthodox Patriarchate, as well as your positions that reflect concern for all churches. We see this as a deep-rooted legacy of which we are proud, representing a role model for relations between Muslims and Christians, which cements the values of harmony, coexistence and dialogue among the followers of various religions.
Finally, you will remain, Your Majesty, in our prayers, you and your Hashemite family and all Jordanians. You have always been generous towards Jerusalem and its people. May God Almighty bless you and protect our blessed Jordan, our Arab Army, and Jordan’s security and stability under your wise leadership. You are the defender of beloved Jerusalem, its people and holy sites. We wish you a merry Christmas, as we chant with the angels “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased”.
We hope to celebrate together again, when the holy sites, the people, and the soil of Jerusalem are safe and secure, with you present as custodian. We renew our pride in you and our pledge to you. We stand in support of Your Majesty’s words: Yes, Jerusalem is in the hearts of all Christians and Muslims. Our right to Jerusalem is eternal.
May God bless you, and peace be with you and to you.
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa:
We celebrate in these days—we Christians celebrate in these days—the Christmas Feast, a feast of peace and love for all humanity, and a feast that is far removed from all fear, as the angels said to the shepherds, as recorded in the Gospel, I quote: “Do not be afraid: behold, I proclaim to you a great joy that will be for all the people: today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 1:10-12).
“The Eternal Word became man and made his dwelling among us,
(Jn 1:14), and entered into our history. He did not come as a judge or with punishment. He came a little child, humble, meek, with a simple announcement of joy, as we heard: “Behold, I proclaim to you a great joy”.
This proclamation is addressed to us, especially this year. Indeed, we are all hungry for joy. But we also see that true joy is so difficult in the complex and exhausting circumstances we experience in this historic moment.
There are many religious and social reasons to celebrate and express Christmas joy, moments that we do not want to be without. But, alas, we also have reasons for raising our anxiety in your presence when we look at the social and political circumstances in which we live. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are two cities nearby and historically linked to each other, and which are the heart of our faith life and the life of our believers’ communities. When we celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, we cannot but see Jerusalem and its difficulties.
As is well known, important declarations have been made, by which they want to change the fragile and important balance that exists in the holy city, between the religious communities, in the holy places, and in the life of the city itself. We express our regret at these declarations that do not help the peace process, but rather deepen even further the already deep mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, publicly expressed his deep concern by making a heartfelt appeal to ensure that, I quote: “everyone is committed to respect the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions. Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims, who in her venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.” End of quotation.
Keeping in mind a situation of evident conflict, we hold that every one-sided solution cannot be considered a solution. Unilateral decisions will not bring peace, but rather will distance it. Jerusalem is a treasure of all humanity. Any exclusive claim—be it political or religious—is contrary to the city's own logic.
We all know how you care for the holy city. You, together with the Hashemite family, are the Custodian of the Holy Places of the city and of the communities that live and express themselves in those places. Many times in the past, as also on this occasion, your voice has risen in defence of the status quo of the city, of its communities. We all appreciate your attention to the Christian communities and your concrete support for the life of the institutions that represent them.
At the same time, while we thank you for your testimony, which is one of the few sources of consolation in this tormented Middle East, we hope that you can have a voice at all international seats like the UN and UNESCO, and in Chancelleries of the various countries—I know that shortly you will see also Pope Francis—so that everyone's attention on the thrice-holy city, the heritage of all humanity, can protect it from unilateral decisions that humiliate and offend her, the holy city.
In these days, we all raise our voice, together, to strongly reiterate that, condemning every form of violence, both physical and political, we reassert our determination to cry out and to work so that the future of Jerusalem consists in sharing and not in excluding, in accepting and not in rejecting, so that all believers can have full and equal citizenship in the holy city.
Thank you, Your Majesty, for your courage. I assure you my personal support and that of our Christian Catholic community.
May the Lord bless you!
Director General of Jerusalem Awqaf Department Sheikh Azzam Al Khatib:
Your Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, Custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem,
Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you,
I am honoured to stand here to convey to Your Majesty the greetings and pride of your soldiers: the imams, staff and guards of the holy Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif and those who stand strong to protect Al Aqsa Mosque; and to renew the pledge to Your Majesty that we will sacrifice our lives, children and money to defend the First Qibla of Muslims and the stepping stone of the Israa (the nocturnal journey from Mecca to Jerusalem) of your great-grandfather, the Hashemite Arab Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.
This is a great responsibility that you, Your Majesty, carry on behalf of the entire Muslim nation, based on religion, prophecy, history and the blood of the martyrs of your Arab Army on the walls of Al Aqsa. You continue to write the pages of history in defending Jerusalem and holy sites. May God grant you victory, support your armies, and reward you on behalf of all Muslims for your good deeds.
Jerusalem, now, faces grave dangers, exacerbated recently by US President Donald Trump’s ominous decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, an occupying power, and to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. It is an unjust decision that we have rejected in the strongest terms, as it represents a violation of the divine definition of Al Aqsa Mosque and ignores the presence of churches in Jerusalem. It is an attack on every Muslim and on every Christian; on every Jordanian and every Palestinian, and on all those who stand against colonialism, occupation, and bigotry.
The most dangerous aspect in Trump’s decision, in our view at the Jerusalem Awqaf Department, is that it legitimises and encourages the Judaisation of the heritage of Jerusalem, changes the status quo, and eliminates its historical and legal character, in a manner that threatens our Islamic and Christian holy sites. There are daily Judaisation violations against the Islamic and Christian holy sites and waqf and Christian property, including the confiscation and tampering with the ownership of property, through dishonest and illegal means, like what happened with some church property. This, under your directives, has called upon the Jerusalem Awqaf Department, in in turn, to stand by our Christian brothers and to work with them to uncover illegal attempts targeting this property, and to expose and counter forgery and fraud by utilising the documents preserved by the Awqaf Department, and which confirm the ownership rights of these Christian endowments.
The targeting of the Christian holy sites by Jewish extremists, and the arson and vandalism of over 53 churches in Jerusalem and Palestine, in so-called price tag attacks is no different than the dozens of times that the graves of Muslims have been defaced, and thousands of fake Jewish tombs have been planted on Islamic waqf land. These violations are clear evidence that the objective is to remove every holy site and heritage that is not Jewish in the holy city, and Al Aqsa Mosque lies at the heart of danger, in terms of the number and nature of these attacks.
We reaffirm our commitment to the Pact of Omar, which stipulates that we must protect our Christian brothers and defend them, their holy sites and property. We consider any attack against Christian endowments to be an attack against Al Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Awqaf.
You have warmed the hearts of all Jerusalemites with your historic statement at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul, when you said: “The right of Muslims and Christians to Jerusalem is eternal”, because it is a statement that affirms Islamic-Christian unity based on the Pact of Omar and a divine promise that the Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif is for Muslims just like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is for Christians alone, and God’s promise is greater than the promises of Trump and Balfour.
Your people in the city of Jerusalem look to your Custodianship of holy sites with great hope, because you are the great supporter after God Almighty, protecting and looking after Islamic and Christian holy sites, and supporting the perseverance of its people. We pledge to Your Majesty that we will remain in Jerusalem, Muslims and Christians, as loyal guards ready to give our lives to defend holy sites and your Custodianship over them.
May God protect you, Your Majesty, and keep you as a defender and protector of holy sites and of the cause of Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine, and the capital of all Muslims and all Christians.
Peace and God’s blessings be upon you.
Lutheran Church Bishop of Jerusalem and Jordan Bishop Munib Yunan:
Your Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein,
First, we would like to thank Your Majesty for this gracious Hashemite gesture in inviting us from beloved Jerusalem to convey to Your Majesty greetings from the holy city. We bring to Your Majesty the love of the Holy Sepulchre and Al Aqsa. Jerusalem, the cradle of monotheistic faiths, is also the eternal capital of Christians and Muslims. It joins you in prayer for justice, peace and reconciliation.
The people of Jerusalem, Christians and Muslims, took a peaceful stand last July with the Islamic Awqaf and called clearly for respecting the historical status quo in Jerusalem. No one may undermine this historical status quo, because it is the only guarantor of peace in Jerusalem, and of peace among the followers of the three monotheistic religions. Jerusalem is the city of pluralism. It is the mother of all. It embraces all It must not be exclusive to one religion or one people. It strength lies in its plurality.
Your Majesty, as the Hashemite Custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, have always supported our perseverance so that we may stand strong on Jerusalem’s land and maintain its Arab identity, despite all the challenges that we face.
The positions of our Christian churches around the world are in support of justice and peace in Jerusalem. All churches, including the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, the International Lutheran Council, and the Council of Churches in the United States have risen to support the stand of justice for Jerusalem over the past month. We are proud that they adopt the stand of the leaders Jerusalem’s churches.
However, and frankly, we also face some Christian groups in the world that view the developments in the Middle East and Jerusalem from a narrow religious apocalyptic perspective.
This group, whom we refer as Evangelicals, are the ones who politicise religion and “religionise” politics. Unfortunately, they view the wars, concerns, displacements, destruction and injustice in the Middle East as a precursor to the second coming of the Messiah. However, we, the true Anglicans, including the Arab Anglicans, disagree completely in letter and in spirit with these groups of Anglicans who do not support justice, and who politicise religion with misconceived and unrealistic scenarios about the Middle East.
Although some of them may have influence over decision makers in the United States, we, Arab Christians, view this group as representative of extremism religiously and politically , not as a representative of true Christianity. This group does not comprehend justice nor does it care about human rights.
Just as Your Majesty has disavowed a misguided terrorist group that does not represent true Islam, describing them as khawarej (outlaws), we, Arab Christians, disavow this Christian group that does not represent the Bible nor Christ. To us they are khawarej, outlaws to the church.
Through their literal and misguided interpretation of the Bible, they abuse the Bible and Christ, who has carried a message of peace, dignity, and justice for all mankind. Therefore, we as Arab Christians dedicated to our homeland and our just causes, are an integral part of the Arab—including Jordanian and Palestinian—social fabric. We say this clearly: The core of our Arab causes is the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem. Perhaps from harm, good will come. The US decision has renewed interest in the centrality of Jerusalem more than ever. The world understands today that there can be no peace in the Middle East without a just peace in Jerusalem and for Jerusalem.
We support you, your honourable stands, and declarations, which were adopted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Allow me to quote from your speech: “our region can never live in full peace without resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, based on the two-state solution, and in accordance with international law and resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative, leading to the establishment of the Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, with East Jerusalem as its capital. There is no alternative to Jerusalem as the key to ending this historical conflict.” from the speech of His Majesty King Abdullah II in Istanbul on 13 December 2017. Only this Hashemite vision will achieve a just peace in our region, because we are proponents of peace, justice, and reconciliation. As Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate, teaches us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Mathew 5:9
On behalf of Arab Christianity, we hope that Your Majesty, as the Custodian of all Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, will address the United Nations, UNESCO, and all influential countries and fora around the world to condemn injustice and protect the holy sites and their property against the flagrant violations of Jerusalem’s Christian and Islamic heritage.
With these words, we would like to thank you once again for this kind invitation, Your Majesty. We also thank His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammed for the love and support.
This meeting shows that you are a father to this steadfast people. It is testament to your honest keenness to safeguard the freedom of religion and worship in Jordan and the Middle East. It is also a testament to Jordan as a model of harmony and coexistence, a country that is safe for interfaith dialogue.
From Jerusalem, we pray that God Almighty will grant Your Majesty long life and support you in your endeavours for peace and harmony, justice and reconciliation, and respecting everyone’s rights.
Sending you, Jordan and the Hashemite family our best wishes.
May the peace of God be with you.
Dima Karadsheh, Member of the World Council of Churches:
Your Majesty, the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites,
Your Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein,
Today, and from this holy site, I carry to Your Majesty a Christian Arab greeting full of the blessings of Christmas and the spirit of peace that fills our hearts with love and pride. We meet as we approach the date of birth of Christ, close to the place where Christ was baptised, on the pure land of Jordan, which prospers under wise Hashemite leadership.
Your Majesty, the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites,
We, at the World Council of Churches, are proud of your achievements in this model of national unity and solidarity, which has never made us feel anything but as one Jordanian family, that has enjoyed and continues to enjoy the protection of the guardian of Christian and Islamic holy sites in Jordan and Palestine. We are near the Jordan River, which is a link, not a separator, between us and our holy sites, and our persevering people in the face of an unjust occupation.
In what state did you come back to us, O Christmas! Yes, we remember Christmas in the holy land, in the heart of Arab Palestine. Today, it bleeds in pain and sadness for its children, who have been martyred and displaced. There are those who stand strong and steadfast in the blessed land as it screams in the face of those who occupied and usurped it with decisions taken by “those who do not own for those who do not deserve”. From Balfour to Trump, we tell them we reject Trump’s decision just as we rejected Balfour’s 100 years ago. Your promise is null and void; it is illegal and will not be accepted by the churches or the free people of the world.
We in Jordan, with our Hashemite leadership as a role model, stand united in the face of the aggressors and the occupiers, to make the world hear the voice of the eternal Muslim and Christian right to holy sites, as Your Majesty stated in the Istanbul Summit a few days ago. Yes, it is an eternal right to our holy sites, protected by the Pact of Omar as it was protected by your grandfather Sharif Hussein bin Ali with his body and soul.
Your Majesty, today, you lead the Muslim and Christian worlds in defending holy sites as a true hero. Lead us Your Majesty, and all the Christians of the world will follow as your faithful soldiers until the injustice on Jerusalem and our holy sites is lifted.
Your Majesty, protector of this holy land,
Today, I stand before Your Majesty, proud to be an Arab, a Jordanian, a Christian, and a representative of the World Council of Churches, and we ask Your Majesty, as the Custodian of all our Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, to step up your efforts in defending our Islamic and Christian holy sites at the United Nations, UNESCO, the International Court of Justice, and all other international fora to protect our churches and property, especially at this time, when the churches suffer under widespread abuse. Over 60 churches in Jerusalem and Palestine have been barbarically burned and vandalised by Israeli extremists in recent years, in so-called price tag attacks that included the defacement of these churches with offensive graffiti targeting all Christians, including Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
Last but not least, we declare our loyalty to Your Majesty and the Hashemite family, and to every member of our brave army and Nashama. May God protect the Christians and Muslims of my country under the leadership of the Custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites, His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein.
May God protect you, Your Majesty, and season’s greetings.