A priest in the Palestinian city of Ramallah has told Premier that, despite escalating violence, he wants Jerusalem to be a house of prayer, not a house of conflict, as increasing numbers of people gather in prayer vigils.
Fr Jamal Khader, the Parish Priest of Holy Family Church in Ramallah, said the situation is bringing people together in prayer to believe “in a new hope”.
“We already celebrated the resurrection. We always say life is more powerful than death. There is always a new life, the tomb is still empty, we have the proof, we go to Jerusalem, and we see that it's empty…and this faith gives us hope, hope for a better future for not only our people, but for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land.
“We want everyone to feel at home here and to accept the differences and to live with others. That was the case a long time ago and we want to continue this tradition. This is the Jerusalem, this is the Holy Land, it's holy for all the three faiths.”
Fr Jamal was speaking as violence continues to escalate between Israel and Palestine. The conflict has already left at least eight dead in Israel and 120 in Gaza, including children.
Israel has been sending air strikes to Gaza while Palestinian militant group Hamas and others have responded by firing back rockets.
Speaking about the church’s role during this situation, Fr Jamal said its message was very clear:
“It's for justice and peace and especially when we talk about Jerusalem, we always said that we want an open city for all its citizens, for Palestinians and Israelis, for Jews, Christians and Muslims, where everyone enjoys freedom, and access to the holy places. That's our message.”
“We continue to serve our people with our values of the gospel, the values of justice, of fraternity. We were all created in the image and assemblages of God, meaning that everyone has his own dignity bestowed on him by God Himself.”
A senior US diplomat has already arrived at Jerusalem and the UN will host a security council on Sunday to help de-escalate the tensions.