A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians

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There is so much to
know and so much to attend.  However, we
tend to attend to issues that are shared by friends. The following two pieces
have compelled me to respond.
As humans, we are instinctively
inclined to take sides and give strength to one of the two positions in a given
situation. We do that because standing for a friend, a fellow you know, even
the family members sounds like the right thing to do.
It is not.
The right thing to do
is to find lasting solutions and not emotional solutions for the moment.   
That is what the
United States and Arab Nations have done in messing up the security for Israel
and justice for the Palestinians. Both of us have recklessly and
unconditionally supported the conflict and positions of each side, rather than focusing
on getting the parties to sit down and find lasting solutions. They would have
done it, had we, the Americans and the Arabs not beefed up their positions.
In the two notes
below, I see the same pattern and I chose to remain not taking sides. As  a peace maker that would be wronging the
Israelis and the Palestinian Christians.
Until the myths (to
the other) and facts (to the other) are cleared up, where both sides agree to
the “agreed facts” Ill-will continues.  We cannot deny the issues, and neither should
be brush them aside – they will be nagging eternally.

This is where you and I can serve as guidance to create a balance in a society
based on agreed facts by all sides, and the American Administration should stay
out of it, peace comes from understanding and not influencing, enforcing, bribing
or appeasing. No nation or individual will live in comfort, when injustice
remains in currency.

It is in Israel’s
interest to have a public forum with open invitations to discuss this including
the writer of the article below. They must avoid temptations to bring “their”
folks to the conversation, bring the ones who see the issues. Truth is the only
thing that triumphs; it will restore the trust in the society and removes on
more battle off the field.
Mike Ghouse is
committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on
issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism,
politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. He is a
frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, commentator on national radio
network, writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and bi monthly at Huffington
post, and other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com
From a friend:
False information
that drives wedges between people should be exposed. I hope you pass the word
along. Hope this finds you and your family well. We are blessed by a 3 week
visit from our son from Tel Aviv.
Earlier last week the article below appeared in the Washington
Post. It claims that Israel unduly restricts Christian travel to Jerusalem.
Ambassador Oren has written a passionate response (also below) in which he
declares that this is nothing short of libel against the Jewish State. I
believe Amb Oren’s response includes information worth knowing. Although the
Washington Post is not widely read in Dallas, this still may be a topic of
conversation among our friends in the Christian community.
A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians

By Richard Stearns| Religion News Service, Published: April 4

Each year during Holy week, Christians around the world anticipate
what come call the “Old Faithful” of miracles.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — built over the traditional
site that encompasses Jesus’ tomb and the place of his crucifixion — the
archbishop enters the tomb after being inspected by Jewish authorities to
ensure he has no means of lighting a fire. After saying prayers and worshiping
the risen Christ, the candles miraculously alight.
The ceremony has been performed for centuries; records of the
event reach back to the ninth century. Across more than a millennium of Muslim,
European, or Jewish rule, the purported miracle has been an inspiration to
thousands of pilgrims who flock to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to spread
the fire into the rest of Jerusalem.
Once it is brought out of the tomb, the light is spread from
person to person, candle by candle, and out into the world. It is a beautiful
sight as worshipers from different Christian traditions line the darkened
streets holding candles and spreading the light of Jesus Christ. The ceremony
reflects the peaceful spread of Jesus’ message from one person to another.
Called “Holy Fire Saturday,” this event also prefigures the Easter celebration
the following day in which Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death
While Christians mark Christmas as the “silent night” in which God
himself took on human flesh, on Easter we proclaim, “Christ the Lord is risen
today,” in the words of the old hymn. It’s a miracle not of light, but of life
defeating death.
But for the past several years in Jerusalem, the mood on Holy
Saturday and the rest of Holy Week has not been one of rejoicing and triumph
but instead one of trial and tribulation.
Because of travel restrictions in past years, the vast majority of
Christians living in the West Bank have been stopped at checkpoints and
prevented from attending one of the most important religious services of the
year. Israeli authorities require permits for entering Jerusalem. Local
Christians estimate that only 2,000 — 3,000 permits are provided, despite the
overwhelming desire among the 50,000 Palestinian Christians to travel from the
West Bank and Gaza for the Easter week celebrations in Jerusalem.
Those who make it across checkpoints and into Israel are still
barricaded by numerous walls and other security obstructions. As a result, even
many who have permits are unable to make it to the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre. In 2010, a Palestinian colleague of mine at World Vision, who had
warm memories as a child of the Holy Fire service, was able to return to the
Holy Sepulchre. She described the scene for those able to gain entrance to the
church: “The crowd, striving to stay joyful, could still feel the change of
what Easter had now become and the dark cloud of checkpoints, police forces,
and denial of entry that had obscured the joy of this holiday.”
While the ancient Christian communities around Jerusalem await the
miracle of the Holy Fire this week, I pray for another miracle — one that would
give full religious freedom to the Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. Holy
Week has long been a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Christians have worshiped
there since the birth of the church, and these sites are a core aspect of the
devotion of Palestinian believers.
The restrictions on travel for worship are not only in force
during Holy Week, but also for routine Sunday services, weddings, funerals, and
baptisms throughout the year. Certainly, Israel can take care of its own
security concerns while accommodating peaceful Palestinian Christian worship.
In a recent letter by 80 Palestinian Christian leaders, including
the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians spoke out
against the lack of religious freedom inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
They complained of being forced to endure an “assault on our natural and basic
right to worship.”
Along with the rest of the world’s Christians, I celebrate a God
who brings light from darkness and life from death. And I pray for another
miracle this Holy Fire Saturday, one that would remove all restrictions on the
freedom to worship for the Christians of the Holy Land.
(Richard Stearns is the U.S. president of World Vision, a global
Christian humanitarian agency.)
A response from Ambassador Michael Oren
By Michael Oren| Religion News Service, Published: April 5

Following is a statement from Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in
response to a guest commentary by Richard Stearns, the U.S. president of the
Christian humanitarian group World Vision, that appeared in Religion News
Service on Wednesday (April 4):
“The claims made in a recent article by Richard Stearns (”A dark
Easter for Palestinian Christians”) are completely without foundation and are
libelous to the State of Israel.
“Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for
Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter
holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining
Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist
organization Hamas.
“With the exception of the very few individuals who have raised
security concerns, and not withstanding the measures we must take to protect
our citizens, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good
Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and
represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish State.
“Israel, the only Middle Eastern country with a growing and
thriving Christian population, remains committed to maintaining its superb
relations with Christian communities worldwide. Though we face serious and
continuing defense challenges, we uphold the principle of free access to the
Holy Places to all religions. On this year, as in all previous years, we wish
Christians throughout the world a joyous

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