Bishop of Southwark asks Government about Israel: Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Church Lands Bill

On 15th March 2018 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, received answers to six questions on Jerusalem, the  Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church Lands Bill:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark:  To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 6 November 2017 (HL2966), what is their assessment of (1) the Status Quo as it refers to the relations between the Christian Communities of the Holy Land with the governments of that region, and (2) Her Majesty’s Government’s historic and current responsibilities in maintaining and defending that agreement.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We encourage the parties to do all they can to work together to uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem are closely following developments on both the Church Lands Bill and the Jerusalem Municipality Tax. We welcome the Israeli Government’s announcement that the draft legislation and tax collecting activities will be suspended to allow dialogue to take place, and the commitment given to maintaining freedom of religion. We expect all Church bank accounts to be unfrozen by the Municipality as part of this process.

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The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 6 November 2017 (HL2967), whether they plan to undertake a detailed assessment of the Church Lands Bill which is being considered by the Israeli Knesset, and of the impact that Bill might have on the Status Quo of the Holy Land sites in Jerusalem.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We encourage the parties to do all they can to work together to uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem are closely following developments on both the Church Lands Bill and the Jerusalem Municipality Tax. We welcome the Israeli Government’s announcement that the draft legislation and tax collecting activities will be suspended to allow dialogue to take place, and the commitment given to maintaining freedom of religion. We expect all Church bank accounts to be unfrozen by the Municipality as part of this process.

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Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to undertake a detailed assessment of the Municipality of Jerusalem’s proposals to tax Church property and of the impact of those proposals on (1) the Christian presence, and (2) Christian institutions, including hospitals and schools, in Jerusalem.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We encourage the parties to do all they can to work together to uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem are closely following developments on both the Church Lands Bill and the Jerusalem Municipality Tax. We welcome the Israeli Government’s announcement that the draft legislation and tax collecting activities will be suspended to allow dialogue to take place, and the commitment given to maintaining freedom of religion. We expect all Church bank accounts to be unfrozen by the Municipality as part of this process.

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The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the decision by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem on 25 February to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, what representations, if any, they have made to the government of Israel concerning the need to resolve the dispute between the Heads of Churches and the Municipality of Jerusalem in a manner that respects the Status Quo of Jerusalem and the rights of Christian communities.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate General in Jerusalem are closely following developments, and have sought clarifications from the relevant Israeli authorities. We welcome the statement from the Israeli Government making clear its commitment to freedom of religion, its announcement of the suspension of tax collection actions, and the establishment of a team to formulate a solution on the issue of municipal taxes. We hope that this team will have a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Heads of the Churches. We expect all Church bank accounts to be unfrozen by the Municipality as part of this process. We encourage the parties to continue to uphold the status quo in Jerusalem.

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Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what meetings they have had, or intend to have, with the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem following the decision of 25 February to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Our Consulate General in Jerusalem routinely meets representatives of the multitude of faith groups in Jerusalem. Our Consul General in Jerusalem last met the Heads of the Churches on 2 March.

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Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on 6 November 2017 (HL2964), what assessment they have made of the impact of (1) the Church Lands Bill, which is being considered by the Israeli Knesset, and (2) the Municipality of Jerusalem’s proposals to tax Church property, on religious freedom in Israel.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We encourage the parties to do all they can to work together to uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv and our Consulate General in Jerusalem are closely following developments on both the Church Lands Bill and the Jerusalem Municipality Tax. We welcome the Israeli Government’s announcement that the draft legislation and tax collecting activities will be suspended to allow dialogue to take place, and the commitment given to maintaining freedom of religion. We expect all Church bank accounts to be unfrozen by the Municipality as part of this process.

via Parliament.uk