THE world is full of contradictions and contrasts. While some work for world peace, others work to wreck world peace. In no other two world figures are these more pronounced than in American President, Donald Trump and Pope Francis. While one is a ruthless politician and worldly businessman with a lot of store in material possessions, the other is a spiritual father with a lot of store in spiritual possessions.
While Trump as Commander-in-Chief of the 1,281 American military and 801, 200 reserve service component, is a powerful military force, the Pope as leader of 1.2 Billion Catholics, is a powerful moral force. One relies on might, the other on persuasion. Trump reasons, based on his perceived powers and personal interest, the Pope, on his intellect and human interest. While the latter is concerned about the tragic effects of climate change, Trump argues that climate change is a fluke.
It is therefore not surprising that both stand on opposite sides on the potentially divisive issue of Jerusalem which the world knows and accepts as being indigenous to the Israeli and Palestinian people. The latest United Nations decision on it is the December 23, 2016 UNSC Resolution 2334 passed by 14 -0 votes which told all countries “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
This refers to the year Israel seized East Jerusalem which is owned by the Palestinians, and forcibly annexed it to the West Jerusalem it owns. Although its capital is Tel Aviv, It had subsequently designated Jerusalem including the indigenous Palestinian lands, as its capital.
This is like the Biblical story of the powerful King Ahab who summoned Naboth the Jezreelite and told him: ““Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” Naboth was murdered and Ahab annexed the vineyard. But God would not condone injustice, so He had the monarchy punished. (1Kings 21)
Although Israel has seized the lands of its neigbour, the rest of humanity will not condone it; humanity refused to recognise the lands stolen from their legitimate owners. The world also accepts the two-state solution to the Middle East crisis; the existence of the Israeli and Palestinian states as independent entities within secured and internationally recognised borders with each side keeping its indigenous side of Jerusalem.
However, on December 6, Trump decided to legitimise the seizure of Palestinian lands by deciding to recognise the whole Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel arguing: “ Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital”. But Pope Francis declared: “I cannot remain silent…I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city (Jerusalem) in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations.” He pointed out that Jerusalem is a sacred city of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Indeed, the religious trinity have their common DNA in Abraham son of Terah from Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11) which is in Southern Iraq. Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews and those of them outside the city pray facing it. To them, Jerusalem is sacred partly because it was on its Mount Moriah, God asked Abraham to sacrifice is beloved son, Issac, then substituted Issac with a ram. It was in Jerusalem, Abraham was believed to have spoken directly with God.
Jerusalem is also sacred to them because it was in it King Solomon built the Temple Mount by 950BC which housed the Ark of the Covenant. When it was destroyed in 587BC, it was rebuilt by Herod but destroyed again in 70 AD by the Romans. The remains of this second temple is the Western Wall or Wailing Wall, the sacred praying place.
To Christians, Jerusalem is sacred partly because it was there Jesus was brought as a child and presented to the Lord at the temple. It was also in Jerusalem he preached and healed. It was in the Jerusalem Temple he chased away the traders and money changers saying his Father’s house should not be turned to a den of thieves. (Mark 11:15)
It was also in Jerusalem he held the Last Super in the ‘Upper Room’. It was on this site, the original Church of the Apostles was built. Since the 4th Century, the Cenacle structure has stood on the spot. Today, it remains a pilgrimage site.
Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested is in Jerusalem. It is also the city he was tried and sentenced. The Golgotha where he was crucified is in Jerusalem, it was also where he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is said to be built on the Golgotha crucifixion site.
Islam’s three holy sites are Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. In Arabic, Jerusalem is known as Al-Quds or Baitul-Maqdis (The Noble or Sacred Place) Prophet Muhammed (SAW) visited Jerusalem (Isra and Mi’raj) about 621 AD during which he met other prophets including Abraham, Moses and Jesus at the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque also referred to as ‘The Farthest Mosque’. That is why it is one of the three mosques in the world, Muslims can journey to visit.
Also, the Dome of the Rock, built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is believed to be where the Prophet ascended to heaven, and where God gave him the Second Pillar of Islam; that Believers should pray five times a day. In fact, the first direction of prayer (Quibla) in Islam, was Jerusalem. Muslims in the Holy City of Mecca were asked to pray, facing Jerusalem. This was so until it was changed to Mecca in 625 AD. The city is so sacred to Muslims that the early mosques in Medina, were built facing the Jerusalem.
So the contention about Jerusalem is not religious; it is politics; yet humanity has the unique opportunity of turning the city into a centre of unity. That is why we all need to stand for justice. Like Malcolm X declared: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
What is needed in Jerusalem is basically justice. Like the Prophet Amos demanded: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos5:24)