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Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Israel's Christian Problem

By Vijay Prashad

On Easter Sunday, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry -- a Dutch diplomat -- joined a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the hill called Golgotha in Jerusalem. On the way, Serry and the procession came upon an Israeli police blockade. "A precarious standoff ensued," Serry later said, "ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through."

What Serry experienced had been documented in a 2009 paper from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem called Kairos Palestine. "Religious liberty is severely restricted," wrote the church leaders. "The freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security. Jerusalem and its holy places are out of bounds for many Christians and Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza strip. Even Jerusalemites face restrictions during the religious feasts. Some of our Arab clergy are regularly barred from entering Jerusalem."

In 2012, the US State Department noted, "Strict closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli government negatively affected residents' ability to practice their religion at holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem."

The Israeli authorities denied the incident, saying that it was a "non-event." Israel's envoy to the United Nations went one step further. Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to accuse Serry of taking "disruptive steps that exacerbated tensions on the ground." Prosor, who has made it a habit of making accusations against UN officials, wrote, "It is unfortunate that a UN official abused his position and the UN platform to express personal opinions." Serry's experiences repeat those of thousands of Palestinians who are often blocked from access to their holy places. Israel makes pilgrims apply for permits, which many say are often not provided or are sometimes disregarded.

[Read the whole article here.]

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Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.