The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Archbishop Suheil Dawani, has called for tolerance, harmony and mutual respect for all in the Holy City of Jerusalem. He made his comments in a sermon preached at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem yesterday, the second Sunday in Advent.
Reflecting on the Gospel story of John the Baptist, he said that his voice “echoes in the wilderness”, calling the people “into ways of justice and peace.” The prophet’s message today, he said, might be difficult to hear or digest. “Its message may require us to sacrifice some of the things we hold dear,” he said. “We know that the prophets throughout the ages asked difficult questions – Isaiah, Elijah, Amos, Micah. They had messages that were delivered to people who did not like the message.”
Archbishop Suheil said: “We do not know what the future of this land is. For many centuries people have suffered here under different regimes; and they are suffering again today. The young and the old are fearful of the future. Many say – ‘what shall we do?’ or ‘what can we do?’
“We can do much – we can keep heart, we can be strong, we can keep our faith alive, knowing that come-what-may, God is with us and he is the Prince of Peace revealed in the manger as a humble and beautiful child.
“We can . . . prepare ourselves this advent for this Prince of Peace, by ensuring we live in peace. We can remedy the disputes we have with our neighbours; we can ensure we care for the poor in our communities. We can, through our actions day-by-day, work for a better place.
“In doing this, we do prepare the way for the Prince of Peace, and through our very actions we become God’s prophets in this world. We are steadfast in his love and his faithfulness, confident that through the very love of Christ, righteousness and peace will indeed kiss each other.”
He continued: “The voice that cries in the wilderness is addressed to us at these difficult times. We hear it especially during the time of advent – when as a community, we are called to a change of heart. During this week we have heard of a change.
“We need to listen to a different voice that speaks deep into our understanding of what justice is for this Holy City, a place recognised as sacred to all – to Jew, to Christian, to Muslim; to Israeli and to Palestinian. A City that by its existence speaks of peace and of harmony, and of respect to all humanity; a place that can be marked in someway as a capital not just for one nation, but for two, for Israel and for Palestine.
“This could help create a place of tolerance, of respect, and for all to flourish.”
Archbishop Suheil has a long history of involvement in peace negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians. When he was vicar of Ramallah, he hosted peace-talks between the then-Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, and the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat in St Andrew’s Church Hall.