President Rivlin: These are difficult times for our city. Terror and death have returned to our streets. The violent attacks all over the city cause growing fear, and with fear comes intolerance and hatred.
President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Monday, 9 May 2016) visited the Apostolic Armenian Church in Jerusalem’s Old City, to meet with leaders of the Christian community in Israel. He was welcomed by Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, while also in attendance were the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal.
President Rivlin thanked Patriarch Manougian for his and his community’s hospitality for what he noted was an important meeting, “A meeting with leaders of your community is always important to me, but during these days, is perhaps even more important.” He stressed, “These are difficult times for our city. Terror and death have returned to our streets. The violent attacks all over the city cause growing fear and with fear comes intolerance and hatred.”
President Rivlin reiterated Israel’s commitment to the values of freedom of worship, and to the well-being of the Christian community which was facing persecution across the Middle East. He said, “I come here today to say in the clearest way: the State of Israel is deeply committed to ensure the religious rights of worship and activity of all communities of faith in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.
“But these times are challenging times not only in our holy city, but across the region. Civil war and bloodshed in the name of religion, have brought much pain, and loss, to the Christian communities.” He added that “I am proud that Israel is the only country in our region where the Christian community is not shrinking, but in fact is growing. Christianity in Israel is not only about historic or holy sites and the many pilgrims who come to visit them. It is a living faith, a living community. We must work together to make sure this stays that way.”
President Rivlin spoke of the importance of remembering the victims of hatred, and spoke of the arrival of Armenian refugees to Jerusalem during and after the First World War. “In 1915, when the members of the Armenian nation were being massacred, the residents of Jerusalem – my parents and my family – saw the refugees arriving in their thousands. In Jerusalem they found shelter. No one in Jerusalem denied a national massacre that had taken place.” He stressed, “We are morally obligated to point out the facts, as horrible as they might be, and not to ignore them.”
The President concluded by offering his hopes and prayers for days of calm in Jerusalem and across the region.
Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian welcomed the President and said, “It is a pleasure and an honor to welcome you all on this special occasion. We the Armenians appreciate the sensitivity you have showed to the community’s concern regarding the genocide. We reflect on our deep commitment to our Christian faith which has often lead us to persecution and death, just as the Jewish people have died for their faith.”
Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III spoke of the shared heritage between the Jewish and Christian communities and said, “We are united in the reality of our common humanity and common cultural heritage. Mr. President, time and again, we are deeply appreciative of your steadfast condemnation of all forms of prejudice, violence, and terrorism and we applaud your commitment to freedom of worship and religious expression for all peoples of the holy land.”
Latin Patriach of Jerusalem Fouad Twal (Catholic “archbishop of the Holy Land) also welcomed the President, and spoke of the importance of dialogue between communities, “In this region where walls separate one community from another, we must be courageous in opening our doors and hearts to all regardless of gender, race, religion, or nationality. Mr. President, I remember very well our meeting in Tabgha last year where you defended the rights of minorities in the country, and for your eloquent words here today too, we are most grateful.”
He concluded by saying to the President, “On the occasion of the upcoming Independence Day, we wish peace and prosperity for all the people of Israel.”