"This is an important step in building bridges between people and religions, allowing co-existence between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, between Christians, Muslims and Jews, to become a reality.” President Reuven Rivlin
On the 19th March, President Reuven Rivlin of Israel visited Qasr al-Yahud on the West Bank of the River Jordan. Believed to be the place where Jesus was baptised, the site is one of the holiest in the Christian world and is visited by over 670,000 pilgrims every year.
But for over 50 years the churches here have been inaccessible, cut off by landmines and booby traps laid after the 1967 Six Day War. HALO has been working to make this special place safe since 11th March 2018 and President Rivlin's historic visit demonstrates Israel's commitment to ensuring the churches of Qasr al-Yahud can become places of ministry once again.
Five of the seven churchyards and compounds have been cleared, including the Franciscan Chapel, Greek Compound, Syriac, Ethiopian and Russian Churches. During his visit, President Rivlin was joined by representatives from the churches, including Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch, the Art. Suheil Dawani, Bishop, the Grand sacristan Archbishop Sevan Gharibian from the Armenian church, Archbishop Aba Enbakom from the Ethiopian Orthodox church and Archimandrite Roman (Krasovskiy) from the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of the Russian Church Abroad.
They visited the Franciscan Chapel and met with the HALO deminers who have been working to make the Baptism Site safe for all.