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World News

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem says Christians in Britain should defend religious rights of others

Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote in The Times on Saturday that Christians should defend the rights of other religions. 

Theophilos III is the head bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem and used his new year message in the British newspaper to encourage Christians to seek peace within the church and with other religious groups. 

Explaining how he has witnessed the kindness of others, he wrote: "Christians in the Holy Land down the ages may have found a general tranquillity of heart because of their faith in God, but rarely have they known tranquillity in the specific circumstances of their life and labour.

"Conflict and tension are still our constant companion. Yet, against that backdrop, acts of tolerance, kindness and sacrifice stand in stark relief."

Theophilos III, who has been in the role since 2005, praised King Abdullah II of Jordan, who he said "is the faithful custodian of the Christian and Muslim holy sites in the Holy Land" and "has shown himself to be a true advocate and protector of Christians, upholding the historic diversity of the region and donating funds to maintain our churches."

He also praised President Rivlin of Israel, who has protected the constitutional rights of Christians to have access to and worship in holy sites. 

Speaking about how this kindness could be displayed in return, he commented: "Where Christians are the majority faith, such as in Britain, they may learn lessons from our own leaders, to stand up and defend their Muslim and Jewish neighbours from prejudice and injustice.

"All the churches in the Holy Land share a conviction that we must look after those in need regardless of their religious affiliation. This is reflected in the numerous schools, hospitals, care homes and community centres that the churches fund and manage, open without distinction to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and Jews, Muslims and Christians.

"We also keep the holy sites of Jesus’s birth, life, death and resurrection open and safe for the millions of pilgrims from around the world who visit each year. Our presence in, and access to, these sites is at times faced with aggression and harm by radical groups that are not representative of wider local sentiment."

The Patriarch of Jerusalem ended by saying: "When God presents us with an open door to pursue the scriptural exhortations to unity, we must walk through it. In the words of St Paul, we must make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. We must be kind and compassionate to each other and forgive each other as we are forgiven by God."

 

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