Great Lent is generally known as a time of strife and temptation.
During the Great fast of 1999 Yugoslavia was targeted by NATO still
failing to present intelligible justiification to the bombing of
a sovereign state. Anyway, rockets were hitiing not only military
targets - during the bombings people were killed, living houses
destroyed and - holy Christian places were turned to ruines.
Three years later
one of the holiest Christian sites, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem,
is being desecrated. For three weeks Israeli forces have been holding
siege of the ancient sanctuary, demanding the extradition of the
200 Palestinians who had entered the Church seeking shelter.
The Nativity Church
had been intact for 15 centuries that had elapsed from its construction.
According to an ancient legend, back in 641 a Persian ruler conquered
the town but stopped short of destrying the sanctury just because
he saw the Magis in one of the frescos and believed they had come
from Persia. This
time it is different. The gunfire has already hit an ancient belltower
of the Church. Israeli snipers aim at its windows and a huge crane
is placed in the Manger Square with a psychological
warfare device emanating supersonic frequencies meant to produce
strong fear in people holed up inside the compound.
Monday, April, 22
AP reported, stun grenades were heard around the church, and a puff
of white smoke rose up from the compound. A Palestinian policeman
inside the church, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli
fire was hitting the church walls.
The bodies of Palestinians
killed by the snipers are said to lie unburied with the compound.
Three weeks ago,
armed Palestinians fleeing Israeli troops shot open the locks of
a nearby Franciscan monastery, and broke into the church compound.
Since then, Israeli tanks and snipers have surrounded the compound.
The church stands on a grotto where Christians believe Jesus was
With Israeli forces
insisting on continuing the siege until all Palestinians come from
the hiding, the situation seems to worsen despire Orthodox hyerarchs'
numerous appeals upon the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to
stop the violence in the Holy place.
"Our Church urges
that any violent action in the place of the Nativity of Christ be
abandoned and armed people be withdrawn from it." - says the STATEMENT
BY PATRIARCH ALEXY II OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA AND THE HOLY SYNOD
OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
dated April, 4.
That same day came
the statement on the Holy Land by The Holy Synod of Bishops of the
Orthodox Church in America. "We call upon all parties involved to
respect the sanctity of the church, and to remove the conflict from
its hallowed precincts immediately. We deplore the continuing bloodshed
and violence which afflict the land hallowed by the life, death,
and resurrection of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and we
call upon all persons involved to work together for a just and peaceful
solution to the many problems which are the source of the conflicts",
"We are particularly
troubled by confused reports from Bethlehem that seem to suggest
that Israeli forces are threatening to violate the sacred space
of the Church of the Nativity, one of the most holy places for all
Christians, in order to arrest persons seeking refuge there.
If these reports
are true, this would be a very grave development that would have
a profound impact on the entire Christian world.
The Orthodox Christian
Church has taken very seriously the role of providing sanctuary
to those who have sought it. You no doubt know that our Church,
throughout its history, has sheltered and otherwise protected from
abuse, even death, thousands of persons of all religions' wrote
the Archbishop of Athens and Greece in his letter to the Israeli
ambassdor on April, 8.
On April, 10 the
Archbishop went to Jerusalem on a "mission of love and support"
but had to quit his trip and go back to Athens: the Israeli miltary
prevented him from visiting Bethelehem and insisted he return to
On April, 13 another
Christian Orthodox Patriach - Patriarch Paul of Serbia issued still
another appeal "to the conflicting sides and all people living in
the Holy Land". "In Bethelehem, wrote the Patriarch, whose name
means "the House of Bread" which is not by incident, Angels and
priests were singing "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men". (Luk, 2-14). Therefore today it hurts
us to see that the Church of Nativity is being kept under siege
and is being hit by gunfire which prevents the priests and the monks
of the most ancient church in the world - the Christian Orthodox
Jerusalem Patriarchy from carrying out regular services there".
Oh, Lord! How long?…