The inaugural meeting of the APPG on Christianity in the Holy Land took place on 30 November 2020. The new APPG has been established to use the leadership and influence of Parliament to promote both the heritage and vital contemporary role of Christianity in the Holy Land. Its members will seek to ensure the Holy Land remains a place where the Christian community can contribute to the peace and wellbeing of the whole society, and where Christians continue to live, flourish and thrive.
Members of both houses, from four parties, elected Conservative MP Steve Double as Chair. The Vice Chairs elected were Bishop Christopher Chessun, Janet Daby MP (Labour), Brendan O’Hara MP (SNP), Andrew Selous MP (Conservative), and Jim Shannon MP (DUP). The International Community of the Holy Sepulchre was appointed to provide the APPG’s Secretariat function.
The meeting welcomed two distinguished church leaders from the Holy Land, who joined live via video link. His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilos III, is the 141st Patriarch of Jerusalem and the direct successor of St James, the brother of Jesus. Patriarch Theophilos is acknowledged by the Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian authorities as the senior Christian leader in the Holy Land.
The Patriarch thanked the officers and members of the APPG, adding, “we were delighted to hear of the creation of an All Party Parliamentary Group on Christianity in the Holy Land. Your support will help the Christian community to flourish and thrive in the future. On behalf of the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in the Holy Land, I thank you for your support.”
Referring to the impact of Covid-19, the Patriarch said, “since March the Holy City has been strangely still. A year without tourism has decimated local businesses and devastated families that have served visitors for generations. As Churches we are doing all we can to provide aid and relief for the community.”
Also addressing the new APPG was His Grace Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and former Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Archbishop Suheil said “the UK has long ties with the Holy Land, and has been closely involved with the church here for many generations. Several of my predecessors were sent to this Holy City from Lambeth Palace, just over the river from you in Westminster. The UK’s long history in the Holy Land is part of our history as the Anglican Church in Jerusalem.”
Steve Double MP announced that the APPG’s plans include a visit to the Holy Land later this year to meet with senior church leaders and Christian communities. There are also plans to hold a joint event with members of the US Congress to strengthen trans-Atlantic cooperation on the topic.