From the Revd Pat Clegg
Sir, — As a frequent visitor to the Holy Land, I read the article accompanying the full-page advertisement feature on pilgrimages (10 December) with interest, and surprise. In particular, I was amazed by the lack of some key features. I quote: “The view from the Mount of Olives is wondrous,” which makes no mention of the Dome of the Rock without which the view would be less than wondrous. I was less amazed that no mention was made of the checkpoint at the Separation Wall into Bethlehem as pilgrim groups routinely pass through uninterrupted.
A greater concern was that, as the focus was on Christian pilgrimages, there was no mention of the potential for engagement with our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, a sad omission. On 9 December 2009, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued the Palestine Kairos Document, which is, as its introduction states, a cry “from within the suffering of our country”. They go on to invite us to “come and see” in order to more fully understand the urgency of their cry.
To walk the way of Jesus is to experience, at first hand, life as in Jesus’s day with the indigenous population living under an oppressive militarised regime. It is painful to witness and challenging to leave behind.
Without hesitation, I would wish to encourage visits to the Holy Land, both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but to do so with a willingness to engage with peoples of all faiths, and crucially Christians, to listen to their stories alongside those from scripture; to see the reality on the ground, and then to rejoice in the steadfastness of those who sincerely work for peace with justice on all sides.
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