Muslims hold key to unity at iconic Jerusalem church

The church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
The church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
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CANON JOHN DRAPER, the Rector of St Mary the Virgin Church, Rowner, visited the Holy Land where he was struck by the faith of the keyholders to an historic church

I HAVE just returned from leading a group of 12 pilgrims from churches across the Portsmouth diocese to the Holy Land. We saw real examples of how people live together peacefully, working across the normal boundaries of race, religion and culture.

We hear so much today about how our country is changing: this is not new. Pretty much all countries in the civilised world are changing their profiles when it comes to race, religion and culture.

The British Isles have always been a sort of boiling-pot of mixes in that respect and it is no different today. We need to make an honest appraisal of our history to see that has always been the case.

In all ‘mother countries’ where there has been an empire, this is particularly so; today’s society reflects our history and former ambitions.

Jesus lived in difficult times; after all, his country of Palestine had been invaded and incorporated into the Roman empire, with a figurehead leader, Herod, ruled over by a Roman governor.

Jesus lived his life trying to reconcile peoples of every race and language; his strong belief was that all peoples should be respected, regardless of their colour, religion, gender, or occupation.

We would do well to take this on board today, respecting our neighbour for who they are, not what part of the world or society they come from.

Churches strive today to be places that are melting-pots. If you look around the congregations of our churches, you will see all ages, all colours, all trades and professions, living and praying together in peace and harmony.

The climax of my visit to the Holy Land was a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This Crusader church is the base in Jerusalem for five major Churches of the Christian religion, each having a heritage of worship and living in the Holy Land over the centuries. The front door key is held by a Muslim family who have held it for generations.

There’s a lesson for us all to live by: that religion, culture and race should transcend society to promote peaceful living.