The Right Rev’d Suheil S. Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that includes Gaza, after two hours of waiting was denied entry into the Gaza Strip at the Israeli EREZ security Crossing Point this morning along with Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan according to a Press Release received today from the Episcopal Diocese in Jerusalem:
Both Bishops were on a Pastoral Visit to include the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and to members of their communities as part of a five member delegation of the Jerusalem Heads of Church. The decision for the Pastoral visit was made two weeks ago and negotiations for the permits were begun with the Israeli authorities for that purpose. They had been informed that their request to enter Gaza had been granted.
The stated decision to deny them entry into the Gaza Strip by the Israeli EREZ authorities was that they were both Palestinians, even though both hold Jerusalem Israeli ID’s. Among those from the delegation allowed to enter the Gaza Strip was Archbishop Aris Shirvanian of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem (who also holds the same Identification Card as both Bishops), Ethiopian Archbishop Abba Matias, and Latin Church Patriarch Fouad Twal.
Bishop Dawani in a statement on arrival back at his Diocesan Offices at St. George’s Cathedral stated:
“I deeply regret the decision by those at the EREZ Crossing Point to deny me, a recognized Anglican Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem with pastoral responsibilities in Gaza, this important pastoral opportunity during the present quiet in the Cease Fire, to visit my diocesan Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The Hospital has been carrying a great responsibility for the diocese in providing high quality healthcare to the Gaza communities for over a Century of exemplary medical and humanitarian services.”
“During this Gaza Conflict”, the Bishop stressed “our hospital and the dedicated heroic staff provided urgent emergency, in patient, and outpatient care to many hundreds of civilians, children women and men, tragically caught in the fray of the military operations. The staff ministered to the wounded, injured and the dying under great conditions of stress. Their devotion and work was admirable in the highest tradition of medical ethics and Christian compassion. The purpose of my visit to Gaza, along with my colleagues, the Heads of Churches, was to pastorally affirm such outstanding services rendered, and be the pastor that I am to our people”.
“With sense of great sadness” he said, “and having just returned from a Washington D.C. visit yesterday, I deeply regret such a denial of entry, on whatever grounds so stated, by the authorities. Gaza remains a portion of my diocese in the administration of my pastoral duties and responsibilities as a Bishop of the Church for the care of my staff and people. The denial of entry to myself and Bishop Mounib Younan, a close colleague who has been a collegial and active partner in the ministry which began between our two Churches Lutherans and Anglicans since 1841, is reprehensible. I say this, because it reflects badly on those in authority at these “crossing points”, and which the international community had demanded be open to humanitarian endeavors – and most certainly pastoral care is an important factor in such services”.
“In spite of this denial of entry today” the Bishop emphasized, “I will try, and try again to reach our Hospital and people in Gaza to provide the pastoral care as well as the necessary review and supervision of our Hospital, as both its Chairman and President. My intention here is to care for our people and staff and to insure a continued impeccable healthcare and other related services rendered to the community.”
“As Anglicans” the Bishop continued, “a faith community across 130 countries, and as caring Christians, the third largest Christian family, and within our collegial interfaith family partnership here in this Diocese of Jerusalem that serves five countries, we have had a rich tradition of devoted and selfless non-sectarian service to all those in need, and certainly in critical areas of healthcare and education”.
Bishop Dawani emphasized his commitment to peace and communal understanding by saying: “Regardless of what happened today at EREZ, I will continue the work of Peace and Reconciliation during this difficult time that we face. And as I have always said, we must keep Faith and Hope alive against all odds as we work in earnest for a just peace and security for all Palestinians and Israelis alike. I remain committed to a two State Solution that will bring reconciliation and harmony. A solution that brings betterment for all of our communities in Israel and Palestine, to enjoy the blessings of a far better quality of life that they justly deserve with the attendant economic and social opportunities to build the foundation, the fabric of an enduring equitable society”.