Message of Good Friday, Jerusalem

March 29, 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just finished our Good Friday service at St. George’s Cathedral, after walking the Via Dolorosa.  Good Friday has come to Jerusalem, amidst the sounds of helicopters, police sirens, and tank movements.  The atmosphere is frightening and this did not allow many to attend.  One is reminded of that atmosphere two thousand years ago.  The streets are conspicuously empty.

As you turn your attention to our Land, the Land where it all began on the first Good Friday so many years ago, we kindly ask that you be especially vigilant in your prayers for our people.  We ask that you follow the example of John and Mary, and avoiding following in the footsteps of those who stood watching from afar.  As never before in the last 50 years, we ask that you be close to us and to our people.

In the community at large, in places like Ramallah and other towns in the West Bank and Gaza, people fear the worst.  Yesterday the town of Ramallah was surrounded by 150 Israeli tanks.  Food supplies were quickly bought up and children were hurried home from schools.  Some found their way to Jerusalem while all foreigners were told by Israel to leave Palestine.  Thirty International Observers from Italy, Switzerland and France have chosen to stay with the people of Ramallah, in a show of solidarity.

For the third time in as many months, Israeli Military forces have occupied the Arab Evangelical Home and School.  Yesterday, in anticipation of this act, all children were sent from the Home.  As anticipated, at 7:30 this morning Israeli Soldiers arrived and claimed the Home as theirs.  Ten sisters and lay staff remain on the premises and were ordered to move to another building.

The Rev. George Al Kopti, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ramallah remains in his home at the Church compound, afraid for his safety on the streets.  The sounds of gunfire consistently fill the air.

Please keep the people of the Evangelical Home and School, The people of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, the people of Ramallah and all those in this Land in your prayers as you remember the first Good Friday.

Yet, the unquiet heart in each peace loving Child of God will keep us going.  We continue to hope, pray, work and look forward to transforming the present reality of death and great suffering, to a more pleasant future; one that respects the noble qualities of humanity.  Once we break with the old and come to terms with the new, the world at large will celebrate a Holy Resurrection indeed.

In spite of the pain and suffering of Good Friday two thousand years ago, as well as today, we continue to believe that good
will overcome evil and peace will prevail over war.

In Christ,
+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal
Anglican Bishop of Jereusalem