new bloodshed in the Middle East arouses a special anxiety in the
Russian Orthodox Church. The faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate
are concerned for the safety of the peaceful citizens of various
nationalities and faiths living in the Holy Land. At the same time,
we are concerned for the fate of the great biblical shrines located
in that region.
By virtue of its history and geographical location the Holy Land
is a place where people of various ethnic backgrounds and followers
of the three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam have co-existed.
Consequently, only one national or religious group cannot prevail
in this sacred land. The Holy Land must become a hospitable home
for everybody, not only the Israeli and the Palestinians, but any
person. Christian, Muslim and Judaic shrines should be preserved
there with respect for the legitimate rights of every inhabitant
of that land and every pilgrim who wishes to visit freely the places
Today the Holy Land has been blasphemously defiled with enmity and
stained with blood. We mourn every victim, condemning violence against
civilians. We, who have survived many wars and terrorist actions,
are horrified by the killing of innocent people in Jewish cities
and districts. We are especially saddened by the fact that terrorist
suicides have been used to kill, which contradicts the teaching
of every religion. We also mourn and protest seeing the life and
freedoms of peaceful Palestinians trampled upon and their houses
and property destroyed.
We are shocked by the abuse of shrines, the use of buildings and
territories which belong to religious organizations for violent
struggle. There is an extremely acute confrontation developed around
the great shrine – the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem.
Our Church urges that that any violent action in the place of the
Nativity of Christ be abandoned and armed people be withdrawn from
It causes alarm to see the Arab civil self-organizations structures
slackened forcibly and attempts made to deligitimatize the Palestinian
National Administration. These actions can lead to a complete breakdown
in the negotiation process and to the deprivation of the Palestinian
people of their internationally recognized right to create a state
of their own. We remind all that the heads of Christian churches
in Jerusalem in their joint statement made on March 9 reiterated
that it is important that “the Palestinians may enjoy their rights
as represented in the International Legitimacy”.
Peace must return to the Holy Land. It is our profound conviction
that to this end it is necessary first of all to stop all the hostilities
and to return to responsible dialogue. The Palestinian side should
unconditionally stop terrorist actions against civilians, while
Israel should withdraw its troops from Arab cities and return to
the Palestinian leader the freedom to communicate with the world
and his compatriots.
We ask the leadership of the Russian Federation, the United States
of America, the United Nations and the European Union to exert every
effort to establish peace in the conflict region and to ensure there
the implementation of the decisions made by the world community.
Any further escalation of the bloodshed will not only involve destabilization
of the situation throughout the Middle East, but also create a real
threat of a clash between civilizations in other regions. If the
conflicting sides do not show the will for peace or prove unable
to cope with the situation, the world community can and must increase
the degree of its involvement in the peace process in the Middle
East so that the suffering of civilians may end and international
stability may be protected, as was the case in many other recent
conflicts. It should be borne in mind that the Holy Land is a property
of all humanity and we must together share responsibility for its
fate and the fate of its inhabitants.