Jill Hamilton writes in the Guardian today, Christians in the Holy Land shouldn’t have to convert to Islam to get divorced.
“We cannot wait for politicians to sort things out, we have got to make a difference ourselves,” concluded Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, at the conference on Christians in the Holy Land co-hosted at Lambeth Palace with archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales.
As they explored ways to support Christians in the Middle East, I sent a query to Lambeth Palace asking why Anglicans in Jerusalem convert in order to get divorced. The reply from the press office was disappointing: “Each province has its own canon law, so the archbishop wouldn’t have any jurisdiction over this in another province … “
Yet it is time that foreign churches, as well as sending money and priests to the Middle East, used their influence to reform family law in the region. Who will bring pressure to bear to modernise the dense muddle of Christian personal status laws in the Middle East? The majority of the 14 million Arab Christians there cannot divorce. Many are locked into dead marriages – or convert to another religion so they can divorce…
And more precisely she reports that:
In the Holy Land, Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans can only separate; to remarry they first have to convert to Greek Orthodox or Islam to obtain a divorce. Annulment is possible, but there are only about five cases finalised in the region annually. Converts for divorce, though, are welcomed by the Greek Orthodox church. Metropolitan Cornelius, the Greek Orthodox judge in Jerusalem, has said the majority of divorces he handles are for former Catholics.