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1999 NCC News Archives

Documentation: U.S. Church Leaders Protest Seizure of Palestinian ID Cards

Return to NCC News Release: Seizure of Palestinian ID Cards

ID Cards Letter to Israeli Government
Jerusalem Patriarchs' Letter, ID Cards
Support Letter to Jerusalem Patriarchs
U.S. Church Leaders on ID Cards

ID Cards Letter to Israeli Government

7 January, 1999

His Excellency the Ambassador Mr. Zalman Shoval
Embassy of Israel
3541 International Drive, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Your Excellency,

Greetings. We are writing to you to share with you a copy of our correspondence with our brothers in Christ, the Patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Latin Catholic churches in Jerusalem. We have been informed by them of their concern for the confiscation of East Jerusalem identity cards from Palestinians and the attendant denial of residency rights in Jerusalem, about which they have written to Minister of the Interior, Mr. Eli Suissa, in October. We share their great alarm and concern over this practice and over the apparent policy which motivates it, which are detrimental to the continued presence and witness of the Christian churches in Jerusalem and an infringement upon the rights of all Palestinians, Christian and Muslim.

The churches in the Holy City of Jerusalem are not composed only of stones, but more importantly are communities of faithful, worshipping believers. Any further diminution of their numbers or weakening of their vitality is a matter of great concern to the churches everywhere. We call upon the government of Israel to safeguard their rights, to rescind these deleterious policies, to restore identity cards that have been confiscated and to refrain from further confiscation.

Thank for your consideration of this matter.

Yours sincerely,

HE Archbishop Spyridon, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
HE Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
HE Archbishop Khajag, Diocese of the Armenian Church in America

His Excellency Mr. Eli Suissa, Minister of the Interior, The Government of the State of Israel, Jerusalem - Israel
The Honorable Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC

Jerusalem Patriarchs' Letter, ID Cards

His Excellency Mr. Eli Suissa
Minister of Interior
Jerusalem - Israel

19 October 1998

Your Excellency,

As the leaders of the Christian faith communities throughout the Holy Land, we write to you with deep concern about the increasing number of Identity cards being confiscated from East Jerusalemite residents.

Statistics put out by various Israeli and Palestinian institutes indicate that the Ministry of Interior has increased the confiscation of East Jerusalemite Identity cards by 600% during the last two years. Although some of these confiscations are justified legally, we feel that this issue constitutes a serious practical dislocation of the Palestinian population within Jerusalem.

As Christian leaders, we are alarmed over the impact this policy is having on our own faith communities. Hard-working and peace-seeking Christians are being forced out of their city due to the changes in the application of MOI policies. These are people for whom Jerusalem is not only the center of their faith, but also the centre of their life and identity. Due to lack of affordable housing within the present municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, many young Christian families have had to move to the surrounding cities and villages. Others have had to study or work abroad in the past. Now, with the stringent requirements to establish a `center of life' within these same boundaries, many of these families or individuals face losing their access to the city of their birth through the revocation of their residency rights.

The State of Israel has often lauded its treatment of the Christian community. But with this acceleration in the confiscation of Identity cards, we must remind you that what impacts Palestinians in general doubly impacts the Christian Palestinians in particular. As a faith community, we call on you and your office to reconsider the manner in which you are handling the issue of East Jerusalemite Identity cards. We urge you to safeguard the rights of our Christian communities in Jerusalem and to halt any future confiscations. We also request that you rescind the recent changes in your policies in relationship to the confiscation of any of their Identity cards.

Our world-wide Christian fellowship is equally worried about this issue, and shares our deep concern. We thank you for your kind understanding and consideration.

+Diodoros I, Greek Orthodox Patriarch
+Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch+
Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch

HE President Ezer Weizman
HE Prime Minster Benyamin Netanyahu

Support Letter to Jerusalem Patriarchs

7 January, 1999

His Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros I, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem
His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Catholic Patriarchate of Jerusalem
His Beatitude Patriarch Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Dear Brothers in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

We share your concern for the alarming increase in the confiscation of East Jerusalem identity cards from Palestinians that was expressed in your letter of 19 October, 1998, to His Excellency Mr. Eli Suissa, Minister of the Interior in the government of Israel. We offer you our support in your protest to the government of Israel.

The city of Jerusalem, containing the sites of our Lord's prophetic preaching, of His Last and most Holy Supper with His disciples, of His Crucifixion and glorious Resurrection, is unique in the faith and piety of the Christian faithful. These places of the story of our salvation have been the object of pilgrimage for nearly two thousand years. Yet they are more than hallowed edifices of stone, for within them and among them are the communities of faithful believers who constitute the living church and body of Christ in Jerusalem. We strenuously oppose and resist any measures, including the confiscation of identity cards from Palestinian residents, that would endanger the continued presence and witness of the Christian community by denying them the right and the means to live in the City of Peace.

One of the reasons that Christians are forced out of Jerusalem cited in your letter is the lack of affordable housing. It has been well-documented that successive Israeli governments and military administrations have issued few, if any, housing construction permits to Palestinians in East Jerusalem or elsewhere on the West Bank, thereby limiting the available housing stock and driving up prices, or compelling Palestinians to build without permits, rendering their houses vulnerable to demolition. In various statements and declarations, we have voiced our opposition to the practice of housing demolition. Israel, either through government agencies or the actions of settlers, has also caused great harm through the confiscation of land and the destruction of homes, farm buildings, orchards and groves, and terraces and vineyards for the construction of settlements and of the roads and other infrastructure to sustain them. We are communicating our concern to Israeli ambassador to the U.S., His Excellency Mr. Zalman Shoval, and to His Excellency the Interior Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Eli Suissa, and we will demand an immediate halt to these practices that harm not only the Palestinians but also the very possibility of peace between them and Israel.

May God be with you and all your flock.

HE Archbishop Spryridon, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
HE Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
HE Archbishop Khajag, Diocese of the Armenian Church in America

U.S. Church Leaders on ID Cards

The following U.S. church leaders have added their names in support of Archbishop Spyridon, Archbishop Khajag and Bishop Joseph Fiorenza:

The Rev. H. George Anderson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mr. John A. Buehrens
Unitarian Universalist Association

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Metropolitan Christopher
Metropolitan of Midwestern America
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Council
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

The Rev. Dennis W. Cleary, M.M.
U.S. Regional Superior
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
The Roman Catholic Church

Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church for the Eastern USA

The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
Episcopal Church in the United States of America

Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Rev. R. Burke Johnson
Moravian Church, Northern Province

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Nathaniel Linsey
Senior Bishop
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. Henry J. Lyons
National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc.

Metropolitan Mathews Mar Barnabas
American Diocese of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Mr. Johan Maurer
General Secretary
Friends United Meeting

The Rev. Judy Mills Reimer
Executive Director
Church of the Brethren

Metropolitan Philip Saliba
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

The Rev. Robert E. Sawyer
Moravian Church in America, Southern Province

The Rev. Dr. J. Ralph Shotwell
Interim Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches

The Rev. Paul Sherry
United Church of Christ

Mr. Kenneth Sutton
Clerk, Interim Meeting
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends

His Beatitude Theodosius
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Weiss
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches, USA

Bishop Zacharias Mar Theophilus
Mar Thoma Church

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