By Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The patriarchs and leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem praised Jordan's King Abdullah II for turning a spotlight on what they say is "the deteriorating situation of Christian basic human rights" in the city and throughout the Holy Land.
The king, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 20, said, "Today, Christianity in the Holy City is under fire. The rights of churches in Jerusalem are threatened. This cannot continue. Christianity is vital to the past and present of our region and the Holy Land. It must remain an integral part of our future."
"The city is holy to billions of Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world," the king said. Any policy or development that undermines Jerusalem's "legal and historical status quo triggers global tensions and deepens religious divides. The Holy City must not be a place for hatred and division."
King Abdullah, who continues to claim the traditional title of custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim and Christian holy sites, has long complained that Israel is violating status quo agreements by allowing Jewish settlements in traditionally Christian and Muslim neighborhoods and, more recently, by not enforcing a 1967 agreement that allows Jews to visit the compound around the Al-Aqsa Mosque but not to pray there. Jews refer to the area as the Temple Mount, the site of ancient Jewish temples.
In a statement published Sept. 27, the patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem -- Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant -- thanked the king for "his true and honest description of the Christian reality in the Holy land, especially in Jerusalem."
"We also applaud his majesty's public commitment to protect our communities' historical and legal status quo, thus preserving our safety and future," the religious leaders said. "His majesty's spearheading efforts to ring the bells of warning over the deteriorating situation of Christian basic human rights sends a strong message to the world regarding the clear and present dangers surrounding the Christian heritage and presence in Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land."