Struggling Over a “Holy” Site
ON July 15, 1099, the First Crusade, authorized by the pope of Rome, reached its goal of taking control of Jerusalem. The slaughter was frightful! The only inhabitants to survive were the governor and his bodyguard, after a large bribe was paid. In his book The Crusades, clergyman Antony Bridge reports on what happened to the rest of the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants: “Once the Crusaders were let loose inside the city, they succumbed to an immense and terrible blood lust. . . . They killed every man, woman and child whom they could find in the city . . . When there was no one else to kill, the victors went in procession through the streets of the city . . . to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to give thanks to God.”
Since the crusader conquest, Christendom’s presence in Jerusalem has been marked by friction between the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, and other so-called Christian religions. In 1850 a dispute between various church leaders over holy sites in Jerusalem and its surroundings was a major factor leading to the Crimean War. England, France, and the Ottoman State fought against Russia at the cost of half a million lives.
The war did not bring an end to Christendom’s differences over Jerusalem and its holy sites. The Ottomans, who controlled the country at that time, tried to bring peace by partitioning the holy sites among the different faiths. “This principle,” explains Dr. Menashe Har-el in his book This Is Jerusalem, “was accepted . . . by the United Nations with the Partition Resolution of November 1947. It is thus part of international law.” As a result, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been partitioned among Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, and Copts. Finally, Ethiopians stake their claim to this church by having some members live in huts on the roof. Many view the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as Christendom’s most holy site. It is filled with shrines, images, and icons. Another so-called holy site, Gordon’s Calvary, is revered by some Protestants as the supposed location where Jesus was executed and buried.
Long ago Jesus told a woman who believed in holy sites: “The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. . . . The true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24) Thus, true Christians do not venerate holy sites. The destruction of unfaithful Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 C.E. stands as a warning to Christendom. Her idolatry, divisions, and bloodguilt belie her claim to be Christian. Therefore, she will suffer the fate that God has foretold for all the religions composing Babylon the Great.—Revelation 18:2-8.