Progress made in clearing mines at River Jordan baptismal site

18 January 2019

HALO TRUST

The iconostasis, or mural, painted inside the Romanian church building, seen through a shell-hole and photographed by a drone

The iconostasis, or mural, painted inside the Romanian church building, seen through a shell-hole and photographed by a drone

PROGRESS has been made in clearing landmines from the west bank of the River Jordan, the traditional site of Jesus’s baptism (News, 26 May 2017). The compounds of the Ethiopian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Franscian, and Russian Orthodox churches have all been cleared of booby traps and unexploded mortars, Paul McCann, the head of communications at the Halo Trust, the charity undertaking the work, said this week. Three more compounds remain.

HALO TRUSTClose-up of the contents of a store cupboard in the Franciscan church. The cognac pictured is still made in the Trappist monastery at Latroun, in Israel/Palestine

On Sunday, the Franciscans held a service for the first time in 50 years. Their Custos (religious superior), Father Francesco Patton, had said that “it had been a field of war, and was not a field of peace”.

HALO TRUSTClose-up of the contents of a store cupboard in the Franciscan church. The cognac pictured is still made in the Trappist monastery at Latroun, in Israel/PalestineMeanwhile, a drone has discovered an extensive iconostasis inside the Romanian church, and an Ethiopian Orthodox monk has announced plans to start living in his church — an “incredibly spiritual and peaceful place”.

Announced in 2016, the clearance work has been funded by the Israeli government, the Churches, and fund-raising by the Halo Trust, which is now seeking additional money to enable it to clear a “no man’s land” between the churches and the river, which contains 2500 anti-tank mines. The goal, Mr McCann said, was to rid the site of the “skull-and-crossbones” signs — a sight that pilgrims had said “didn’t suit a place of peace”.

“The place associated with the baptism of Christ should be free of weapons that maim and kill,” he said.

www.halotrust.org

Church Times: about us

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)