UN envoy urges respect for religious freedom after Israeli forces disrupt Easter procession
A top United Nations envoy on Saturday said he was dismayed that a peaceful Easter procession led by Palestinian Christians through Jerusalem’s Old City was disrupted by Israeli security forces.
“Once again I call on all parties to respect the right of religious freedom, granting access to holy sites for worshippers of all faiths and refraining from provocations not least during the religious holidays,” said Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
An Israeli police checkpoint blocks access to the Old City of Jerusalem, April 19, 2014. The day before Easter, thousands of Palestinian Christians and international pilgrims attempt to enter Jerusalem’s Old CIty to participate in the “Saturday of Light” or “Holy Fire” celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org
According to a statement issued by the Special Coordinator’s office, Mr. Serry and members of the diplomatic corps visited an Easter procession from the New Gate to the Holy Sepulcher at the invitation of the Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem. The procession was stopped at a security checkpoint prior to the entry on the church grounds.
“Despite earlier assurances to the Palestinian Christian community in Jerusalem of unhindered access to the Holy Sepulcher Church on the occasion of Easter celebrations, the Israeli police refused to allow such entry claiming they had orders to that effect,” the statement said, adding that a “precarious” standoff ensued ending in an angry crowd pushing their way through.
“The Special Coordinator was dismayed that a peaceful procession on the occasion of Easter in the Old city was disrupted by unacceptable behaviour from the Israeli security authorities.”