Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is calling for prayers for Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision December 6 to recognize the city as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Hiltz is also condemning Trump’s “unilateral action,” saying it has set off violence in the Holy Land.
In a statement released Friday, December 8, Hiltz said he was joining a number of voices expressing “serious concerns” about Trump’s declaration. He cited a letter jointly issued by 13 heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem, including Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, voicing disapproval and worry.
“We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division,” the church leaders said in the letter, released shortly before Trump’s official announcement. “We ask from you Mr. President to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all.
“The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people, that live within it, from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing.”
But Trump, Hiltz said, chose “to ignore this wise and Godly counsel,” and went ahead with his declaration. “His unilateral action has unsettled the entire Middle East and plunged Jerusalem into chaos,” Hiltz continued.
As of Friday morning, December 8, Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, was calling for an uprising against Israel; terrorist group Al Qaida was inciting its followers around the world to attack the United States and its allies, as well as Israel; and protests were being held in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and numerous countries in the Middle East. At least one person was reported to have been killed and dozens wounded in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
Jerusalem contains sites holy to Muslims as well as to Jews and Christians, and Palestinians hopeful of eventually having a state of their own have envisaged the city’s eastern part, annexed by Israeli in 1967, as its capital.
Hiltz said he was asking Canadian Anglicans for their prayers for the Holy Land, “for those who are suffering physically, emotionally, spiritually and for all who minister among them”; the heads of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith groups there; government leaders committed to restoring peace, and for Jerusalem itself, “so that as the Psalmist says, its peoples will know ‘peace within its walls and quietness within its towers’ ” (Psalm 22:7).
Hiltz ended his message by expressing the hope that, with the approach of Christmas, the hearts of Christians would “beat anew to the song of the angels, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth’ ” (Luke 2:14).
In their letter, the Jerusalem church leaders also worried Trump’s announcement would lead to an increase in violence just as Christians prepare for a “feast of peace,” Christmas, according to ACNS.
“The Angels have sung in our sky: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the people of good will,” their letter states. “In this coming Christmas, we plea for Jerusalem not to be deprived [of] peace, we ask you Mr. President to help us listen to the song of the angels.”
In an interview with the Anglican Journal Thursday, December 7, Hiltz said he felt Trump had acted in a characteristically “unilateral” and dangerous way in making his announcement.
“There’s no sense of, you know, consultation, no sense of this having been a broader conversation. It’s Donald Trump being Donald Trump,” he said.
“As with issues of concern on the Korean peninsula, his statements and his actions agitate, and they tend to stir things up in ways that, quite frankly, are not helpful,” Hiltz said. “It’s very worrisome in terms of how this could turn.”
The Anglican Church of Canada—like the government of Canada—Hiltz said, supports “a lasting peace process in which there is a state of Israel, but within which Palestinians also have a rightful place.”
Hiltz also said Trump’s announcement cast some doubt on whether he would still make a planned trip to Jerusalem this January to visit the Anglican primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
A number of Anglican and other churches have expressed concern over Trump’s announcement. According to ACNS, the U.S.-based Episcopal Church (TEC) said it opposed the decision to move the embassy. “This decision could have profound ramifications on the peace process and the future of a two-state solution, and it could have a negative impact throughout the region and with key U.S. allies,” TEC said.
Also expressing “grave concern” about the announcement was the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
“Such a step breaks with the longstanding international consensus, and almost seven decades of established American policy, that the status of Jerusalem remains to be settled,” Tveit said. “The imposition of this decision on the status of Jerusalem will only lead to more disillusionment, increased tensions and diminished hopes.”
On Twitter, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote, “The status quo of the City of Jerusalem is one of the few stable elements of hope for peace and reconciliation for Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Holy Lands. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”