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Seeing our shared humanity is the way to peace, says Archbishop Justin in Jerusalem

Thursday 27th June 2013

Peace cannot be found without recognising each other’s humanity, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in Jerusalem last night.

For communities in the Holy Land, finding ways of living together after the “great traumas and tragedies of so many years” is “a huge challenge”, the Archbishop told Christian leaders gathered in the Bishop's Peace Garden at the city’s Anglican Cathedral. 

But “there is no other way than finding each others’ humanity, recognising it, and seeing in it the image of God,” he added.

Archbishop Justin was speaking at a reception in his honour in the Peace Garden at St George’s Cathedral, hosted by the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani.

The reception was attended by local Christians leaders from different denominations, along with diplomats, ambassadors and Palestinian civil society leaders.

In his first visit to the Holy Land since his installation earlier this year, Archbishop Justin said he sought “to serve all the people of this region, without exception” and that he prays for “peace with justice and security.”

Acknowledging the profound significance of Jerusalem for all its faith communities, the Archbishop said it was “essential” that it remains “an open city”, with Christians, Muslims and Jews having “full access” to their holy sites.

The Archbishop, who prayed at the Western Wall yesterday and will also visit Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, added that it is “essential that round the world we support those who bear the burden of ensuring the openness of those holy sites and who are the stewards of this place in the face of challenges that are different in each generation.”

Opening the evening, Bishop Suheil told Archbishop Justin he was “deeply grateful for your presence in Jerusalem.”

By hosting Archbishop Justin in the recently opened Bishop’s Peace Garden at St George’s Cathedral, Bishop Suheil said he was marking his commitment “to peace and reconciliation between the three official religions and two peoples of the Holy Land.” 

He added that the tranquil garden, with its 200-year-old olive trees, was itself a symbol of “the peace mentioned in all three holy books.”

“And like all gardens, it teaches us that what we tend to most will do best,” he said.

Bishop Suheil, who next month will host the Cathedral’s annual Iftar meal to celebrate with Muslims the break of the Ramadan fast, said that “by this peace garden, located in the heart of Jerusalem, we state clearly that it is peace that we seek, it is peace that we need, and it is peace that we work towards.”

Read the addresses by Archbishop Justin and Bishop Suheil:

Archbishop Justin’s address to Christian leaders at St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, 26 June 2013

Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences, Your Graces, distinguished guests, thank you for your very warm welcome indeed. It’s thirty-three years since I was first here. I was with my wife, and we were actually on honeymoon, and we stayed here at St George’s. It was very different – much less comfortable, but no less welcoming. It has always been a place of welcome, and, Bishop Suheil, this is a warm welcome indeed this evening and I congratulate you on this new garden. I also thank the church leaders for the enormous welcome that they have brought today.

It’s always fascinating being introduced at these things. Thank you, Mr Dean, for your introduction and kind welcome. Several people today have said, ‘We read about you and we know that you think this or that or the other.’ Well let me say, don’t believe what you read in the papers.

I’ll say a couple of things. First of all, I spent long enough in business to believe in blunt speaking, so I will be short and to the point. It has been a very warm welcome today, and it’s a great pleasure to be here, having the opportunity to refresh my experience of the work of the Anglican diocese here in this area. One of the things that most strikes me since I was last here is the great warmth between the churches here in Jerusalem. It was very noticeable today, Your Beatitudes, at the meeting this afternoon, the real sense of unity, and I praise God for that.

The Anglican diocese operates in five countries and, as the Anglican Communion all over the world, makes an enormous contribution to the wellbeing of the societies in which it is present. As we’ve heard, it runs school, hospitals, clinics – we’re opening a new clinic tomorrow – and this is what Anglicanism does throughout the world. It is an extraordinary part of the Church and a huge privilege to be involved in it.

The life of the Church springs from its experience of the love of Jesus Christ, the love of God through Jesus Christ, which overflows to the communities around us. And that is indeed the challenge for our churches throughout the world, and especially this part of the world. Jerusalem is, as we know, the centre of the world in so many ways. The centre of three great faiths, the centre of much of the news that we hear; the centre in both good ways and bad ways. It is essential that Jerusalem remains an open city, with full access to the religious sites which are holy to three faiths. And it is essential that round the world we support those who bear the burden of ensuring the openness of those holy sites and who are the stewards of this place in the face of challenges that are different in each generation. Those challenges will in the end, as we have heard so eloquently already from Bishop Suheil and from His Beatitude the Patriarch, that can only be faced with clear speaking and can only be achieved when there is peace with justice and security for all the people of the region. Where people are left out, there will be no security, no justice, no peace.

Finding ways of living together after the great traumas, tragedies, of so many years is a huge challenge. And it will come when there is a change of heart. Bishop Suheil spoke so eloquently and so powerfully, and I want to echo his words: that where we seek power and security, we will find neither. The teaching of Jesus Christ is when we give our lives away, then we find what we seek. And I thank you, Bishop, for your witness and testimony in this area.

His Beatitude the Patriarch spoke earlier at our meeting this afternoon of reconciliation. And that has been a passion of mine for many, many years. Partly in this area, but also in other parts of the world where there is also great killing and great suffering. Reconciliation comes from knowing our own reconciliation and our own peace, and it leads, as we are reconciled to God – and as Christians we believe we are reconciled to God through the love and grace of Jesus Christ – we are able to offer hospitality and holiness to those with whom we disagree, and find their humanity, and find love, and find reconciliation. There is no other way than finding each others’ humanity, recognising it, and seeing in it the image of God.

I was deeply grateful today for the award that the Patriarch so kindly gave me of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a great privilege to have been drawn into your fellowship. It’s a privilege I hope to continue over these years that God gives me in this work, and to seek – with so many others around the world – to serve all the people of this region, without exception, but seeking also and always praying for peace with justice and security. Thank you for your welcome.

Bishop Suheil Dawani’s address at St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, 26 June 2013

Good evening, friends, Your Beatitudes, Bishops, Excellences, clergy, ladies and gentlemen. This evening we are gathered with our very special and honoured guest, His Grace the Most Revered Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife, and the rest of the delegation. It is his first visit to the Holy Land in his new ministry, and the first official function to be held in this new Bishop’s Peace Garden.

I am deeply grateful for your presence in Jerusalem, Your Grace. Hosting you in this garden marks the commitment of my episcopacy to peace and reconciliation between the three official religions and two peoples of the Holy Land. This garden, with its 200-year-old olive trees, is itself a symbol of the peace mentioned in all three holy books. It provides us with the opportunity to be still, and to know tranquility amidst the business of life. And like all gardens, it teaches us that what we tend to most will do best.

By this Peace Garden, located in the heart of Jerusalem, we state clearly that it is peace that we seek, it is peace that we need, and it is peace that we work toward. A peace that is not merely the absence of tension, but is accompanied by justice. This Bishop’s Peace Garden reminds us, too, that peace is the namesake of the Holy City of Jerusalem. While often without peace, it is nonetheless the city of peace. Our striving towards being an open city, where all can know the God of peace who desires that all human beings gather in harmony, acceptance, affirmation and reconciliation.

With our various Christian traditions, as well as what our brothers of Islam and Judaism, we make every effort to build cohesive relationships. In just a few weeks from now, for example, I will be hosting here our annual iftar to mark the break of the Ramadan fast. With our Muslims brothers we will share a meal and continue our modeling of living together in peace and harmony. For the three Abrahamic faiths, the city of Jerusalem is sacred and holy. Gathering at her holy sites, adherants for all three faiths are called to love God and to love neighbour. Within this simple but powerful calling is found our peace. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. As Martin Luther King Jr said, peace is not kept by force, but by understanding. It is manifest through compassion, where the power of love is the greater than the love of power.

As Christians, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We have the privilege, and also the obligation, to keep the hope of peace alive in the hearts of our people, knowing that violence and war will bring more suffering and destruction.

As the city of three faiths and two peoples – as well as the place pilgrimage for the whole world – we must do our part to ensure that Jerusalem is a city of peace. It needs not to be at the expense of one another’s uniqueness; but rather, by making the Holy City truly safe, and inclusive of our diversity.

As a small but strong presence here in Jerusalem and the region, the Anglican Church has a profound and important role to play. Our embrace of God in Jesus Christ allows us to serve both the divine and the human in equality important ways. God is both transcendent and immanent in our understanding of the holy. And we are rightly dedicated to the glorifying of God and serving of humanity. Our rightful place in the temple is balanced with our rightful place in the city square. Since 1841, the Diocese of Jerusalem has glorified God and borne witness to the love of God for all people through our institutions of learning and healthcare. For more than 160 years Anglican presence in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East has been an extraordinary force for good. And more importantly, we are merely at the beginning of a bright future – capable of even greater and more effective ministry in all these important areas, including peace and reconciliation.

Your Grace, we are grateful for your support and encouragement, as this visit affirms the historic and continuing importance presence of the Anglican church in the land of the Holy One. When I sent you an invitation to come to Jerusalem, even before your consecration, you said, “Yes, my first visit will be for Jerusalem and the Holy Land.” And thank you for that. With your help and support, our church will remain a strong and vibrant witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ. For our openness to others. For our affirmation of the three faiths and two peoples of the Holy Land. And for our being peacemakers in a region desperately in need of peaceful justice.

With the wider community as represented here tonight, and also to have Mr Alami, a Muslim Jerusalemite, graduate of St George’s School in 1962, we extend to all the hand of friendship, of welcome, of inclusion, and of solidarity. We are committed to love of God and neighbour, where each person and each community can live in peace and harmony, and where everyone can be confident of safety and opportunity to live full, productive, free, just and peaceful lives. May almighty God continue to bless us as we, the Christians of Jerusalem, share with our Abrahamic brothers and sisters the mission of love, peace and reconciliation. May God bless you all and welcome, ahlan-wa-sahlan, thank you.

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