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6 Apr, 2012

Arab Christians Denied Chance to Celebrate Good Friday


JERUSALEM, April 6, 2012 (WAFA) – While Christians from all over the world were able to attend the Good Friday celebrations in the Old City of Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians were denied this opportunity.

Israel has imposed a total closure on the occupied territories preventing Christians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip the chance to reach East Jerusalem to participate in the Good Friday procession.

Military-issued permits granted to Christians that would have allowed them to reach Jerusalem to celebrate Easter were cancelled as Israel has imposed a total closure on the occupied territories while Jews celebrate Passover, which starts Friday night.

Pilgrims gathered at the Umarrya school inside Lions Gate and from there marched to the Holy Sepulcher carrying small and large size crosses.

The Arab Christians from Jerusalem and inside Israel, who participated in the procession, carried a large cross and sang hymns as they walked along Via Delarosa on their way to the Holy Sepulcher Church.

Christians from various countries around the world arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate this important day in the Easter holy week, which culminates with Easter Sunday.

At a sermon during the Last Supper mass on Thursday at the Holy Sepulcher, Latin Patriarch Twal said Palestinians in the Holy Land are still suffering from restrictions.

“For us who live in this Holy Land, Christ continues to suffer in the members of his mystical body: every day we are confronted by the absence of freedom of movement and peace, frustrations, suffering, and even martyrdom,” he said.

“These living conditions wound us in our innermost soul. We hunger and thirst so much for justice and peace, we dream of leading a simple normal life. We are prisoners of hate, of mistrust and the fear of men towards one another,” added Twal. Followers of the Orthodox Church mark Easter a week later.

Fatah official Nabil Shaath  called on the international community to end Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem. He  congratulated Christians on the start of Easter, and said Israel’s separation wall and settlements are “an insult to the rich history of the Holy Land.”

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after a 1967 war, in a move never recognized by the international community. Palestinians must seek permits from Israeli authorities to enter the city. Israeli policies are “an assault on more than 2,000 years of Christian history in the Holy Land for it disconnects, for the first time in history, the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem,” Shaath said in a statement.

Israel’s occupation pushes Palestinian Christians to emigrate, “threatening the fabric of our society,” he said. “Palestinian Christians are not a minority but an integral part of the Palestinian people, whose contributions to our national struggle, art, culture, and civil society are invaluable.”