Middle East

Holy Land: Catholic Ordinaries (AOCTS), “Christians, Muslims, Druses, Baha’is and Jews ask to be treated as equal citizens”

Gerusalemme, Santo Sepolcro

The Nation-State Law approved by the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, on 19 July 2018, is a “major blow” to the values of equality, justice and democracy contained in the 1991 “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty”, for it “provides a constitutional and legal basis for discrimination among citizens of Israel, by clearly establishing the principles according to which Jewish citizens should receive preferential treatment over other citizens”. This is according to a statement from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (AOCTS), received by SIR news agency today, which reaffirms that “our Christian faithful, our fellow Muslims, Druses and Baha’is, and all Arabs among us, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters”. The Catholic Ordinaries warn that “by promulgating the development of Jewish settlements as a national value”, the law “will help to encourage and promote their establishment and consolidation”, thereby spreading a “discriminatory vision”. Moreover, by downgrading the status of the Arabic language as opposed to the Hebrew, “the law completely disregards the fact that there is another people, Palestinian Arabs, and other important religious communities, Christians and Muslims, as well as Druses and Baha’is, who are deeply rooted in this land”.

“Christians, Muslims, Druses, Baha’is and Jews – the statement reads – ask to be treated as equal citizens. This equality must include the respectful recognition of our (Israeli) civic identity, our (Palestinian-Arab) ethnic identity and our (Christian) religious identity, both as individuals and as a community. As Israelis and Palestinian Arabs – the Catholic Ordinaries said – we seek to be part of a State that promotes justice and peace, security and prosperity for all of its citizens. As Christians, we are proud that the universal Church has been founded in Jerusalem and that its first faithful were sons and daughters of this land and its people. We recognize that Jerusalem and the entire Holy Land are a heritage that we share with Jews and Muslims, Druses and Baha’is, a heritage that we are called upon to protect from division and internal struggles”. “This Basic Law – Catholic religious leaders concluded – contradicts the humanistic and democratic principles contained both in the Israeli legislation and in the international laws and conventions to which Israel is a signatory, aimed at promoting human rights, respecting diversity and strengthening justice, equality and peace. As religious leaders of the Catholic Churches, we call on the authorities to rescind this fundamental law and to ensure, once and for all, that the State of Israel seeks to protect and promote the welfare and safety of all of its citizens”. The 25 signatories to the Declaration include the Custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton; the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Mgr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa; and the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus, Mgr. Youssef Soueif.