The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the most sacred shrines in Christianity. The Christians believe it to be the place where Jesus was crucified and entombed. Consequently, it has become a holy shrine of pilgrimage among the Christians from all over the world since 326 AD.
Though it is considered the holiest place for the Christians, the Church of Holy Sepulchre is also the most ironic sites in all of Christendom. Disputes between the sects Latin (Roman Catholic), Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Egyptian Copts have resulted in bedlams and riots and the involvement of the local Israel police force.
“The rival groups of worshipers fought not only with their fists, but with crucifixes, candle sticks, chalices, lamps and incense-burners, and even bits of wood which they tore from the sacred shrines,” historian Orlando Figes said. As a result, these conflicts have led to a rather unique arrangement of Muslims protecting the key and the responsibility of opening the Church every single morning for centuries.
“This is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”
Since their ancestors, the Joudeh family has been entrusted as the neutral guardian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This agreement between the Muslims ancestors of Adeeb Joudeh and the Christians has helped promote interfaith harmony. Joudeh said, “This is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”
Joudeh refers back to the historical incident 1,400 years ago when Umar Ibn Al-Khattab conquered Jerusalem and signed one of the earliest progressive treaties on religious freedom with Patriarch Sophronius, a leader of the Holy Sepulchre Church. Twenty-three years earlier, massacres ravished the city of Jerusalem by the Byzantines conquerors until the arrival of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab — who dealt both peacefully and respectfully with the people of Jerusalem and their religion.
Though Joudeh has the authority of protecting and holding the key to the church, it is Wajeeh Nuseibeh who is in charge of opening all the doors every morning. These two Muslim families have held the responsibility of protecting the holy shrine for centuries. Certainly this is an encouraging and an unique model of coexistence between interfaith for the rest of the world.