During its long 4,000 year history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Jesus was not the first and will not the last to weep over Jerusalem. The Bible tells us,
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side… They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)Jesus prediction came true in 70AD when the Romans demolished the city and built their pagan Aelia Capitolina, to occupy, suppress and control its citizens. Today we weep too that Al Quds, the Old City and East Jerusalem remain, after 45 long years, under Israeli military occupation. An occupation in breach of international law, Geneva Conventions and UN Resolutions. That is why no country recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the city.
But what kind of Al Quds do you envision? What kind of Jerusalem are you marching for today? Is it for an open, inclusive city of faith? Or for one as exclusive as the Zionists are trying to create? Let me be frank. Is there a place in your Jerusalem for Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of no faith? Is there a place for Sunnis as well as Shias, for Salafists as well as Sufis? Is there a place for all those born there? All those who have found refuge there? All those driven out by fear or persecution?
What kind of Al Quds do you want? Perhaps we should instead ask ‘What kind of Al Quds does God want? Long before Jesus or Mohammed were born, God inspired David to envision a city whose residents would be identified by their faith not race.
“Glorious things are said of you, city of God:The Prophet Isaiah also envisions Jerusalem as a city where God teaches the nations, where swords are turned into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks.
“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me - Philistia too, and Tyre along with Cush - and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Ps. 87)
In the last days
That is why, quoting the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus insisted Jerusalem must be a place of prayer for all nations.the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.3 Many peoples will come and say,“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers." (Mark 11:15-17)Therefore if we wish to do God’s will, we will work and pray for Al Quds to become an inclusive city that reflects God’s vision, a city of justice, peace and reconciliation. Insha’Allāh.
Delivered at the Al Quds March outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square in London, Friday 17th August. Watch a short Press TV interview here (I am interviewed toward the end).
View photos here