Jerusalem Church leaders urge freedom of worship following historic mosque closure after gun violence

Jerusalem's historic al-Asqa Mosque was closed last week after gun violence at the site.Wikimedia Commons

Church leaders in Jerusalem are urging freedom of worship in the city, calling for continued access to the historic al-Aqsa Mosque after it was closed following gun violence last week.

Last week saw three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers killed in gun violence in the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli police subsequently closed the mosque, the first time it has been closed in decades.

The mosque is located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Known to Muslims as the Haram-ash Sharif, the mount is one of the most important religious sites in the world, and has been venerated for millennia.

An open letter from patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem condemned the violence and grieved the loss of life in the attack.

It emphasised concern about breaking the status quo of the mosque, barring public access for prayer. 'Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences which would be most unwelcome in the present tense religious climate,' the letter said.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has joined the plea for free access to worship. WCC acting general secretary Father Ioan Sauca urged prayer for a peaceful resolution in the city.

'Keeping the historical status quo and supporting equal rights for Christians, Muslims and Jews at these holy sites is vitally important to maintaining peace and de-escalating violence,' he said.

'Denying access to holy sites for thousands of people who have travelled far to pray is not only a violation of the rights of those individuals, but also a corrosive act in the midst of an already-fragile peace.'

The closure last week barred access to the weekly Friday prayers that Muslims attend at the Mosque. Sauca implored a solution before noon Friday, when thousands will have travelled to al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayer.

He said: 'We stand in solidarity with Muslims, Jews and Christians, and we pray that justice and peace will prevail, not only this week but in weeks and months to come.'

However, at latest report peace talks have broken down this morning, with Israeli officials refusing to remove security from the site, according to Middle East Eye. Palestinian religious leaders and politicians have called for a 'day of rage' and resistance in response.