2 August 2011
By Rand Dalgamouni
BAPTISM SITE - A senior official on Monday called on Christian leaders to help establish beyond doubt that the Kingdom hosts the holy site where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist.
"We request that your beatitudes help us in highlighting the historical facts in the Bible about Jesus Christ's Baptism Site," Minister of Culture Jeryes Samawi asked Orthodox patriarchs at a conference yesterday.
Father Nabil Haddad, president of the Jordan Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre, said all Christian religious leaders consider Jordan's Baptism Site the actual place where Christ was baptised, which affirms its authenticity and refutes all Israeli allegations that claim otherwise.
On Saturday, senior officials, senators, lawmakers and Church leaders denounced an Israeli decision to rename the Judith Church on the West bank of the River Jordan the "Baptism Church".
They stressed that excavations have clearly proved that the eastern side of the River Jordan is the place where Jesus Christ was baptised, known worldwide as the "Baptism Site", contrary to what the Israelis claimed.
Monday's conference grouped leaders of the Orthodox churches of the East, invited by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem to stress that Christians in the East are an integral part of the fabric of eastern society.
"Today, the very fabric of this harmonious society is being threatened by dark forces," the patriarch said at the conference's opening ceremony yesterday.
"But we must not fear," he added, calling for encouraging Eastern Christians, and those in the "turbulent Middle East" in particular, to continue their lives in peace.
"We Orthodox Christians are part of the Middle East. Christ is from the East and Christianity did not come from the West," Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East, said yesterday.
He stressed the need for followers of all religions to respect each other and co-exist in harmony.
"We do not love each other enough. Each fears the otherة This is a test of our Christianity, to make us acknowledge the other," he added, noting that "we don't have two or three or four creators, we are all the creation of God".
Patriarch Chrysostomos II of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus urged Christians to move beyond rhetoric to actions that instil interfaith tolerance.
"Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth," he said, quoting John 3:18.
Minister of Tourism Haifa Abu Ghazaleh stressed that Jordan's "mosaic society" celebrates its diversity and seeks interfaith tolerance on the "land where Christ was baptised".
Participants at the two-day conference seek to launch an initiative by the heads of Orthodox Churches of the East, comprising the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Church of Cyprus.
The initiative affirms the need for these churches to "grow together" and encourage Christians to remain in the land where Jesus Christ was born.