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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

handing over

US Secretary of State John Kerry has recently proposed a number of controversial topics, in talks with the Palestinian leadership.  One official said, "Kerry's recent ideas focus on handing over parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinian National Authority and that Jordan will have the jurisdiction on holy sites and places in the city."

Not a good idea, especially if it entails handing over Jewish and Christian places of worship. Why is this so, I hear you say. Well, just look at the way that the main mosque in Jerusalem is managed,  (very shoddily), as such, it would not bode well for other non-Muslim places of worship.

“In 1948, when the Jordanian government occupied Judea and Samaria, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was placed under the Jordanian Waqf Ministry, which oversees Islamic sites. In 1967, when Israel won the Six-Day-War and regained control over Jerusalem, it did not take control of Al-Aqsa. Instead, Israel transferred control of the mosque to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf [trust], an independent religious body to oversee the Islamic holy sites there.” 

In the article, a member of the mosque is asked about the very poor condition of the building, he replied   "Look at the donation boxes here; they collect an average of one million shekels ($284,000) per month. We have no clue where that money goes...The poor and the needy never get any of it."

Another member of the mosque said: "The wrongdoers are from our own folks, son. We are the ones who have destroyed Al-Aqsa... I have worked with the Jordanians, with the Jews, and the Palestinians, I have seen them all, and I know what is really happening."  

The decayed state of the mosque is not a recent event, it has been so for well over a century. That’s not the end of the story, it has to be remembered that Jordan is a predominantly  Islamic state, with  approximately 97%  Muslim population. Although Jordan does have an indigenous Christian minority, (2%), it is tiny compared to 1950, when it consisted of 30% of the population. 

The words of a Jordanian son of an ex-priest, sharply sums the situation in which these Christians find themselves:

"You know, coexisting with Muslims is difficult," he says, choosing his words so as to convey truth but not offend. It is the way of conversation here, to let nuance reach the heart. "Muslims don't accept others. They want everyone like them. We show them friendship. They don't show outward hostility, but you feel it inside your soul." 

It remains to be seen the viability of Mr Kerry's proposals or how they could pan out. Given the widespread mistrust and continued intolerance of Christians, it is very hard to swallow the "suggestion" to hand over control to Muslims of Jewish & Christian places of worship and holy sites.

Back to Jerusalem, the day to day lives of Palestinians isn't a rosy one either, at best it is comparable to the situation that the Jordanian Christians, at worst, threats to their livelihoods.  The picture of persecution is the same across the region. " They are all embarking down the same path as Palestinian Christians, as one of the participants from Jerusalem exclaimed. He spoke in a tone marked by a mix of desolation and sadness, “Only around 40,000 Christians remain in our country. In Gaza, where Sharia has prevailed for several years now, there are only 1,300 Christians. Even in Jerusalem, the city of the resurrection of Jesus and the cradle of Christianity, there are no more than 4,000 Christians.”

 The irony is not lost on me: the Israeli Christians and Muslims are the freest in the Middle East by any standard of measure.  Let's hope that this remains the case, along with ownership and control of the Jewish & Christians religious places.


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