In photos: Palestinian Christians welcome Easter’s ‘Holy Fire’ to Gaza

In photos: Palestinian Christians welcome Easter’s ‘Holy Fire’ to Gaza

photo essay from Mondoweiss

Thousands of Christians from across the globe flock to Jerusalem every Spring to follow Jesus during Easter rituals and festivities. This year Easter is celebrated twice. The Western Church celebrated Easter on March 31. The Eastern Church will celebrate on May 5. While pilgrims come as far away as Africa, India, or Europe, Palestinians Christians from only a few kilometers from Jerusalem are denied permits. Only 30 to 40% of permits for the Western Christian Church celebrations in March were accepted this year. Sometimes only a few family members were given permits thus not permitting families to celebrate together. Roman Catholic Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah said: ”We look with great concern at the Israeli restrictions imposed on us and on our worshippers’ access to the Holy Sepulcher from all over Palestine, and we believe that the Israeli military permits given to some Christians is contrary to the spirit of prayer and the spirit of Easter holiday. The right to freedom of worship is a fundamental human right, and the oppressor ruler has no right to prevent worshippers from praying or restrict their freedom to worship with an imposed permit regime” (from PLO Negotiations Affairs Department. Bearing the Cross of Colonization:The Via Dolorosa Today, Easter 2013).

In addition, even those who got permits faced checkpoints for several days within the Old City including in front of the Holy Sepulcher. Lack of access to worship however is not only an issue for Palestinian Christians but for all Palestinians as many Muslims are also denied access to Jerusalem or Al Aqusa Mosque. Freedom of worship is a basic human right for all Christian and Muslim citizens.

Bishop Younan from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land said in his Good Friday sermon that in spite of the lack of progress toward peace “Easter gives us hope that no oppression or injustice will last.” Jesus’ death reminds us that the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross, is still happening. Jesus’ resurrection reminds us that change will come.

From YWCA-Palestine’s Easter message

Joe Catron has contributed this photo essay of Easter celebrations this past week.

For more information on the general humanitarian situation in Gaza, click here.