World Council of Churches in Conflict with Israel for Religious Liberties Violation

Last week,The World Council of Churches released a firm official statement rebuking Israel after authorities denied entry to thousands of Christian pilgrims to the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. 

Newsroom (27/08/2023 18:45Gaudium Press) The council is the largest global coalition of Christian groups, bringing together numerous churches and hundreds of thousands of faithful followers. Mount Tabor holds great significance for Christians as it is believed to be where Jesus transformed from human to divine messenger.

The World Council of Churches said Israel infringed upon religious liberties when Israeli police blocked the road on Friday, August 18, as the pilgrims travelled to the holy site. The Christian believers, members of the Orthodox community, were meant to celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration in the church. Police sent them home shortly before the ceremony was scheduled to begin, stating that the facility could not handle such a large group.

Events were supposed to take place on Friday and Saturday. Only several dozen managed to reach the church. According to media reports, around 3,000 Christians arrived in Israel to participate in the celebrations.

The statement

“No less than 1,000 cars waited at multiple checkpoints set by the Israeli police and were consequently delayed for two and a half hours,” wrote Rev. Prof. Dr. Jerry Pillay, general secretary for the World Council, in an official statement published on August 21.

“The faithful were surprised that a ban was issued to prevent assembly on Mount Tabor and the open area and that the police cited safety concerns for the participants,” he continued. “A few days previously, a meeting took place between the Orthodox Council in Nazareth and the Israeli authorities, where it was agreed that the event would take place.”

Pillay stressed that disruption of the Christian observance on Mount Tabor follows persistent instances of mistreatment towards Christians in Jerusalem, Haifa, and other locations and that leaders of the regional churches in Jerusalem have been releasing statements appealing for assistance and safeguarding the native Christian community.

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The World Council of Churches views with concern the infringement on religious freedom, the denial of worship, and the constraints on the life of the Christian community in the Holy Land under the pretext of safety and security as unacceptable,” Pillay wrote. “The World Council of Churches calls upon the government of Israel to allow Christian worship and community events to proceed freely and to protect the rights of religious freedom for all people.”

In response to the incident, Chamber of Inbound Tourism Organizers Yossi Fattal had called the event “a scandal on an international level.” He said, “The issue will be used in the world as a tool in the hands of those who seek to discredit Israel as trying to harm Christians.

“It is a serious police omission that such an order is issued on the day of the pilgrimage to the mountain,” he said.

Earlier this summer, a female usher at the Western Wall plaza asked an abbot of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem to remove the large cross he wore over his black robe because it was “inappropriate” for this “Jewish place.” Moreover, a Jewish man threw a rock through an Ottoman-era window in the Christian Cenacle.

Similarly, in May, dozens of extremist Israelis protested against a group of Protestant Christians attempting to pray near the Western Wall, accusing them of being a missionary organization.

  • Raju Hasmukh with files from Jerusalem Post

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