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Christians to Hamas: Give us religious freedom
By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic Online

JERUSALEM (CNS) – The patriarchs and heads of the Christian churches of Jerusalem told the newly elected Palestinian leadership that they extend their cooperation for the public good, but said they wanted full religious freedom.

In a Jan. 31 message, the religious leaders told the leadership of the militant Islamic group Hamas that they would cooperate “for the public good and the national Palestinian aspirations together with the cause of justice and peace in a nonviolent way.”

However, the religious leaders said this referred not only to the realm of foreign relations, but also to internal matters such as “the rule of law … with full religious freedom, especially in the social and educational fields.”

In the message the religious leaders also encouraged Palestinians, saying, “We call upon the Palestinian people to continue their contributions to the making of their history, whatever may be the difficulties or obstacles, internal or external.”

The message was signed by Latin, Melkite, Maronite, Syrian and Armenian Catholic leaders; the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land ; and Orthodox, Episcopal and Lutheran leaders.

Some people may be “afraid or troubled” by the “new phase” which Palestinian society is entering, they said in the message, but Jesus’ words in the Gospel of St. John must be remembered: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The leaders also included a passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be recognized as children of God.”

The leaders said they prayed for all those who will govern during this “difficult period.”

“We ask God to guide us toward what is good for all and for this Holy Land with all its inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis, be they Muslims, Christians or Jews,” they said.