Muslim NBA star urges peace to Christians at Jerusalem church
Former Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom called on the Christian world to come together in “unity, peace and love” during a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Friday.
A Turkish Muslim who has been outspoken about human rights abuses in his own country, China, and around the world, Kanter Freedom arrived in Israel on Thursday and will stay until Tuesday to help co-organize a multi-faith basketball camp in Jerusalem with Tamir Homme bon.
On Friday, he toured the four quarters of the Old City and their holiest sites. A tour guide shared information about the religious, historical and archaeological context of the area. On Sunday morning he ascended the Temple Mount.
“I am here in Jerusalem, probably the holiest place in the world for Christians,” Kanter Freedom said from inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “This is the place where many people believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
“I have a message for all my Christian brothers and sisters around the world: unity, peace and love are the keys. Let’s respect each other,” Kanter Freedom said.
The Holy Sepulcher is divided between six traditional Christian denominations which each run their own section of the church. While many revere the site as containing the tomb of Jesus, most Protestants and other evangelical denominations believe the site is elsewhere – many argue that the nearby garden tomb outside the walls of the Old City is more likely to be the actual site.
Nevertheless, the church is the anchor of the Christian quarter and a major attraction for thousands of pilgrims every year.
Several praying Christians stopped the 6’10” basketball player to ask him for a selfie and tell him how much they respect him or appreciate his efforts.
“Shalom, salaam and thank you,” said an older man, who held out his hand to Kanter Freedom to shake.
As he walked through the church, Kanter Freedom stopped in the Armenian Chapel.
Armenia was the first nation in the world to declare Christianity its national religion, even before the Roman Empire. As such, they have a presence in Jerusalem and their own chapel in the famous church.
Turks and Armenians have a tragic past that includes the Armenian Genocide – the systematic murder and deportation of Armenians by Turks from the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Some 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turks between 1915 and 1920.
Turkey has never officially admitted or acknowledged the genocide, and there are virtually no diplomatic relations between the two countries. Last year, Kanter Freedom tweeted about the “pain of millions of Armenians” and said, “Turkey must face up to its past and present crimes.”
Kanter Freedom told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that one of his best friends growing up was Armenian and “he taught me so many different and beautiful things. I respect my Armenian brothers and sisters around the world, and my only message for them is to keep fighting. For the good.”
He said it was “more moving” to be in the Armenian chapel knowing the history between his country and Armenia.
“I am Turkish and you are Armenian, and we have to try to find common ground,” Kanter Freedom said in a short video he made while standing in the center of the Armenian Chapel. “I love you guys. I think the most important thing is to put our differences on the table, and we have to find what we have in common.”
He told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that he has made new Armenian friends in America, and despite their history, “all I have is respect for them.”
“We have to love each other,” he said.
Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze children participate in the unity camp. They learn basic basketball skills, participate in strength and conditioning drills, and discuss faith-based values.
The camp is underwritten by Bnai Zion, Athletes for Israel and Together Vouch for Each Other US
This article originally appeared on ALL ISRAEL NEWS and is republished with permission.
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