The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed concern and sadness over the threats made against Archbishop Atallah Hanna, and the poison gas attack on him which took place in his church in Jerusalem on 18 December. Archbishop Hanna who is Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem was paralyzed and rushed to hospital after a gas canister was fired into his church in Jerusalem.
The Archbishop has been a strong critic of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians in defiance of International Law. He has also been outspoken about Israel's activities inside neighbouring Lebanon and Syria.
The director of Jordan Hospital, Abdullah Al-Bisher held a press conference on 29 December to talk about the results of the laboratory tests of the complex toxic substances found in the gas attack.
Al-Bisher said that from the moment Archbishop Atallah Hanna arrived at the hospital, he was given the necessary treatment, and all required medical examinations were performed. He stressed that Archbishop Atallah Hanna is currently in a 'stable condition,' and will be kept in hospital while further tests are carried out.
Tveit expresses profound sorrow and prayers for Archbishop Atallah Hanna and his church.
"I condemn this violence unequivocally, as I do all violence between the peoples and communities of this region which has seen so much bloodshed in the name of religion," said Tveit in his statement issued from the WCC headquarters in Geneva on 2 January.
Tveit also raised his concerns that Christians in the Gaza Strip was not allowed to visit holy cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas.
"I am therefore also deeply concerned about the heightened tensions, some of an explicitly religious nature, which are being experienced in Jerusalem during the current time - and the risk that such tensions may spill over into further acts of violence or incitement," Tveit added.
"The tensions and tragedies of this city, holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, are a reminder both of the need for all parties to continue to work intensively for a just peace in Israel and Palestine, and of the vital place that Jerusalem itself plays in that longed for peace," Tveit said.
"There has been too much prevarication, postponement and obstruction: all parties and powers need to work proactively to find a solution which will meet the demands of justice and the hopes of all people of good faith," he stressed.
"The frustration over the failing peace processes, as well as the increasing settlements and continued occupation, will require new initiatives that can overcome the obstacles to peace and build trust in a common future," Tveit concluded.
For more information about WCC solidarity with churches in the Middle East see:
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