Earlier this month, general secretary Eddy Alemán and other Christian leaders from the U.S. met with the king of Jordan, His Majesty King Abdullah II, in New York City.
Topics during the historic, roundtable meeting included “maintaining the status quo for all worshipers in Jerusalem, concerns about the rise in violence in Jerusalem, and displacement of Palestinians as a result of the continued occupation,” says Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). CMEP, a partner of RCA Global Mission, convened the meeting in coordination with the Jordanian Embassy in the U.S.
“In the RCA, we are committed to the peace in the Middle East and in the world,” says Alemán. “We seek God’s shalom.”
“It was a terrific opportunity for the leaders of our member communions to engage in meaningful discussions on the protection of holy sites in Jerusalem, and on our shared concerns about escalating violence and displacement of Palestinians across the West Bank,” says Cannon.
Holy sites include Christ’s tomb, the Chapel of the Ascension, and the baptism site of Jesus. At the meeting, leaders expressed their support of Jordan’s efforts to establish Jesus’s baptism site as a destination for Christian pilgrimage. The site is already preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The King reiterated that the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem is an honour and a responsibility that helps preserve the unity of all churches, and—more importantly—unity among the Muslim and Christian communities,” states the Jordan Times press release.
Leaders also affirmed the Jordanian government’s response to refugees in its country and called for continued international support of these welcoming efforts, as Jordan “sets an example for other countries in dealing with the influx of refugees.”
Alemán says the meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II grew out of the RCA’s involvement with Churches for Middle East Peace, and builds on long-time RCA engagement in the Middle East. Current partnerships in Israel and Palestine, Bahrain, and Oman are built on foundations that go back 130 years, Alemán says, to Samuel Zwemer, one of the RCA’s first missionaries, who began his medical mission work in Bahrain in 1892. The work of current missionaries Josh Vis and Sally Vis particularly focuses on paving the way for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Following this meeting, the dialogue will continue “to ensure we see real progress toward addressing these realities in the months and years ahead,” says Cannon.
Photo courtesy the Royal Court of Jordan.