israel and palestine religious conflict
The following statement has come from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – a branch of the Catholic Church
Holy Land Coordination: Final Communiqué 2013
Since the Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination gathered in January 2012, the people in this region have lived through dark and dramatic events: conflict in Gaza and southern Israel; civil war in Syria, which has resulted in huge numbers of refugees pouring into other countries and putting an enormous strain on their resources; and increasing polarisation within Israel and Palestine. These developments have caused profound anxiety for all in this region, for the Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and particularly for the dwindling Christian population. This year we met Christian communities in Gaza, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Madaba and Zarqa. In the Cremisan Valley we heard about legal struggles to protect local people’s lands and religious institutions from the encroachment of the Security Barrier (“the wall”). We promise to continue urging our respective governments to act to prevent this injustice. We heard moving testimony from religious women involved in the care of migrant workers, trafficked persons and prisoners.
Our faith was enriched by the strength and fortitude of the people we met: those with whom we shared in a vibrant celebration of Mass in Zarqa in Jordan; those who care for the vulnerable, like the refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing terror and violence; those struggling in the face of oppression and insecurity across the countries that make up the Holy Land. We are inspired to promote a just peace and call upon Christian communities in our home countries and people of goodwill everywhere to support the work undertaken in this region to build a better future. Good examples are two agencies we visited: Catholic Relief Services in Gaza and the Caritas refugee programme in Jordan.
We are also called to recognise and tell others how faith in God brings light into the lives of people in the Holy Land. One of the ways in which this happens is the Church’s commitment to education, a tangible investment in the future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the University of Bethlehem, where we were struck by the stories from students, and the American University of Madaba in Jordan. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI called upon staff and students in the region to be builders of a just and peaceful society composed of peoples of various religious and ethnic backgrounds.
With the local Bishops, we encourage practical support for the vulnerable, the formation of young people and every effort for the promotion of peace. We encourage Christians to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land where they will experience the same warm hospitality we received. We shall work hard to persuade our respective governments to recognise the root causes of suffering in this land and to step
up their efforts for a just peace. We echo the call Pope Benedict made recently in his speech to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps: “Following Palestine’s recognition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful co-existence within the framework of two sovereign
states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace, not one of division”. In the words of one of the Psalms, which we prayed together each day: “for the peace of Jerusalem pray” (Psalm 122, v.6).
Signatories to the Final communiqué:
Archbishop Richard Smith – Edmonton, Canada
Archbishop Joan-Enric Vives – Urgell and Andorra, Spain
Bishop Gerald Kicanas – Tucson, USA
Bishop Stephan Ackermann – Trier, Germany
Bishop Michel Dubost – Evry, France
Bishop William Kenney – ComECE Representative
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Reykjavik,Nordic Bishops’ Conference
Father Roy writes:
Thanks to Cotton and Donna and the others on PIN’s team for all the good work they do within the Episcopal Church in the USA. The PIN reaches out to Episcopalians in the pews and recognizes that there’s potential for kinetic energy in TEC’s august House of Bishops.
Episcopalians/Anglicans are growing robust internationally, too. Bishop Riah (who’s on the mailing list) is enroute to Damascus with an International Delegation on a Peace Mission to Syria. The Mission will be led by Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, a Peace Activist from Ireland. The Peace Delegation will include our own Fr. Dave and Denning from Australia and the Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer from the UK. Stephen and Sami Joseph know each other.
Please read on. These are critical times we live in. There are ways we can help.
Diocese of North Carolina passes resolution urging Executive Council action on Palestine/Israel church policy
Palestine Israel Network Press Release
Winston-Salem, North Carolina – A week after long-time Episcopalian advocates for justice in Palestine released a letter urging the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council to better pursue equality in the Middle East, the Diocese of North Carolina passed a resolution advocating the same policies at its annual convention.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day letter – signed by church leaders like Edmond and Patti Browning, Bonnie Anderson, Desmond Tutu and eight others – can be read and supported at epfnational.org… Since the letter’s release more than 300 Episcopalians from 54 dioceses have supported the Episcopal Voices of Conscience Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council.
“As hopes for a peace with justice for the peoples of Palestine and Israel increasingly hang by a thread, it is critical that the Episcopal Church acts on its extensive and long-standing policies. These include not only interfaith dialogue and education, but the actions raised in the letter and our diocesan resolution,” said Donna Hicks, a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s (EPF) Palestine Israel Network (PIN) who was a delegate to the January 25-26 North Carolina diocesan convention.
The diocesan resolution – filed in December 2012 – calls on the Executive Council to accomplish two things directed by past General Convention resolutions by June 2013 – call on Congress to investigate whether U.S. funding to Israel is being used to deny basic rights of Palestinians living under occupation and determine what investments the Church holds that support the infrastructure of the Israeli Occupation. The full text of the North Carolina diocesan convention resolution also is on the EPF PIN website above.
Father Roy writes: More and more of the Churches in the US are "mobilizing" and standing strong and speaking out. Arthur Hagopian is a writer and journalist currently based in Australia. He has worked for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The highlights in his piece are mine. Peace, Roy
US religious leaders seek two-state solution for Palestine and Israel
By Arthur Hagopian
27 Jan 2013
Leading figures among the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in the US have joined other leaders of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious and lay organisations and institutions, pledging to mobilise support for peace in the Middle East.
Armenian Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Director of Ecumenical Affairs for Armenian Orthodox Church in America Father Mark Arey, the Director of the Office of Ecumenical Affairs for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, believe time is running out for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The loose umbrella of the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative (NILI) for Peace in the Middle East, which includes Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America, and Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, warns that the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was waning, and urged "immediate, sustained US leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution."
Among the other leaders are Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ (USA) and Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US.
The group believes the most viable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a two-state agreement that provides for a secure and recognised Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
"With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible," they said in a recently released statement.
Mourning the lives lost and shattered during the recent violence that gripped the region, the group warns that what had been seen, over the past years, "will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate."
As things stand now, "the status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians," they conceded, but stressed now is not the time for "another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace."
"The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilises the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict," the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East says.
The group urges strong and determined action, proposing a peace of the brave, because as people of faith, "we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible."
"We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new [US] Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides," the statement declares.
The signatories note that the US "has unique leverage and credibility in the region" and that no past progress towards peace has occurred in the Arab-Israeli conflict without US leadership, facilitation or staunch support.
"Once again, we need active, fair and firm US leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late," they add.
They pledge to mobilise the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the US, in the push for peace.
"Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement," the statement from the US National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East concludes.
* More on NILI: www.nili-mideastpeace.org…
© Arthur Hagopian is a writer and journalist currently based in Australia. He has worked for the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Father Roy writes: A challenge like this one deserves the widest possible circulation, throughout the entire Anglican Communion and beyond. How shall we Episcopalians respond? Honestly? Courageously? Ever so politely? Impotently? I highlighted a few of Littlewood’s points which I found especially worthy of note. Peace, Roy
(nb. highlights are courtesy of Father Roy)
January 24, 2013
Zionists call the shots in the Anglican Church
Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, has stepped down from his post (sigh of relief).
Williams’s role as a figure of unity in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is represented in over 130 countries, meant that he was in a position to “bring the needs and voices of those fighting poverty, disease and the effects of conflict to the attention of national and international policy makers and donor agencies”. Or so we were told.
Bearing witness meekly, silently
In 2010, when the archbishop announced he was planning a visit to Gaza just a year after the slaughter and devastation of Operation Cast Lead, I asked his Lambeth Palace office for more information. Whom would he meet? Would he see the health minister? Would he sit down and talk with the elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, man of God to man of God (for Mr Haniyeh is an imam)? Would he do Gaza (and all of us) proud by spending a generous amount of his time with senior members of the Islamic faith?
His office didn’t reply.
According to the Archbishop’s website he did none of those things. At least, he didn’t mention them if he did. Unless I’m mistaken, he said nothing about Gaza in the House of Lords, where he had the ear of Parliament and the support of 25 other Church of England bishops.
Yet he began his Ecumenical letter that Easter by declaring: “Christians need to witness boldly and clearly.”
A lady wrote to me saying she had emailed Lambeth Palace 18 times asking if the archbishop’s party could please bring back some deaf children’s art, which should have been picked up by members of a recent Gaza blockade-busting convoy. The palace eventually declined saying the Israelis wouldn’t allow it.
If he’d been “witnessing boldly” as he exhorted other Christians to do, the archbishop would surely have instructed his staff to pick up the children’s art and dare the Israelis to confiscate it.
The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel…
She complained that by not using his position in the House of Lords and elsewhere the archbishop was failing to improve the situation for Palestinians, quoting the words of Desmond Tutu: “Where there is oppression, those who do nothing side with the oppressor.”
It was later revealed that the Israelis severely restricted the archbishop’s time inside Gaza. I asked why such interference with the church’s pastoral business in the Holy Land, of all places, wasn’t broadcast on the website, in mainstream media and in Parliament.
His office confirmed that the archbishop had initially been refused access to Gaza but was eventually permitted one-and-a-half hours. This was just enough for a hurried visit to the Ahli hospital and no more. When my questions were forwarded to the archbishop’s public affairs spokesman, the reply was headed “NOT FOR PUBLICATION”. Suffice to say the Israelis from the start blocked the archbishop’s visit to Gaza and only at the last minute granted him a piddling 90 minutes.
Was this his idea of “witnessing boldly”?
The archbishop’s website joyfully reported how he hobnobbed with the Chief Rabbinate, paid his respects to Yad Vashem and the holocaust, and talked with the president of Israel – the latter no doubt sniggering up his sleeve at his guest’s frustration at being prevented by Israel’s thugs from seeing what horrors they had inflicted on the Gazans.
Why did he agree to fraternize with Jewish political and religious leaders when his wish to carry out his Christian duty in Gaza was so rudely obstructed? Did Lambeth Palace not realize that meekly accepting such insults only served to legitimize the Israelis’ illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and gave a stamp of approval to the vicious siege of Gaza, the ongoing air strikes against civilians, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities, and the regime’s utter contempt for international law and human rights?
There was no mention of a get-together with senior Islamic figures, leaving a question-mark over Williams’s real commitment to interfaith engagement.
Earlier, while the Jewish state was putting its finishing touches to Operation Cast Lead (the infamous blitzkrieg launched over Christmas-New Year 2008/09 against Gaza’s civilians, including the Christian community there), the archbishop joined Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a visit to the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland to demonstrate their joint solidarity against the extremes of hostility and genocide.
The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.
“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity – a place where the name of God was profaned because the image of God in human beings was abused and disfigured,” said the archbishop. “How shall we be able to read the signs of the times, the indications that evil is gathering force once again and societies are slipping towards the same collective corruption and moral sickness that made the shoah [holocaust] possible?”
Read the signs? Surely they were plain to see. The forces of evil had already pushed some societies into the moral cesspit. He needed to look no further than the hell-hole that the Holy Land had been turned into by the Israeli occupation, with good old England’s blessing. If ever there was a place where “the name of God was profaned” this is it.
Who will step forward and save it? The Holy Land is the well-spring of the Christian faith, but you wouldn’t think so from the don’t-give-a-damn attitude among senior churchmen.
Open door for the bully-boys The multitude of interfaith committees and Christian-Jewish councils has opened the door to the Zionist lobby and made it easy for them to meddle in Church business and bully Christians into submission. There’s even a propaganda outlet calling itself Anglican Friends of Israel. A few weeks ago Zionists, no doubt emboldened by the church’s appeasement policy, put the squeeze on the Bishop of Newcastle, Martin Wharton. The Representative Council of North-East Jewry wrote to him complaining that he voted for a motion at the General Synod which supported the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) despite their “grave concerns … that it would encourage anti-Semitism”. His action, said the letter, “makes any further contact with the Jewish community in the North-East impossible”.
So be it, would seem an appropriate response. But oh no. What brought this on, according to the Church Times , was Bishop Wharton’s agreement to speak at a conference, “Peace and Justice in the Holy Land”, organized by a group of people who had taken part in the EAPPI programme. Its sponsors included Christian Aid, CAFOD and Friends of Sabeel UK.
The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the Reverend David Gifford, said that the conference had “the potential of becoming yet another anti-Jewish meeting, creating more anxiety and distrust between the north-east Jewish community and the Church”. Then the Board of Deputies of British Jews chimed in saying that the EAPPI was “partisan” and “anti-Israel”.
Let’s be clear what the EAPPI is actually about:
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
The EAPPI programme was set up by the World Council of Churches in response to a call by the churches of Jerusalem. Its mission includes engaging in public policy advocacy and standing in solidarity with the churches and all those struggling against the illegal occupation. Few people except those who support the brutal Israeli regime would disagree with the programme’s principles and objectives. And few, surely, would condemn the humanitarian work the EAPPI carries out with great courage in the face of criminal hostility. Nevertheless its success has whipped the usual suspects into an orchestrated frenzy.
As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, John Dinnen, whose motion sparked the Synod debate, pointed out that well-known Jewish groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition [ICAHD] are entirely supportive of EAPPI, and that five per cent of EAPPI volunteers are Jewish “which is a higher ratio than the number of Jews in England”.
But despite having the moral high ground Wharton caved in and decided not to attend the conference “for the sake of good relations between all the faith communities in Newcastle”. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, also decided not to attend. He told the Jewish Chronicle that he had become aware “that many Jewish people in the north-east were angry and upset”. Perhaps the angry and upset should go themselves to the West Bank and experience the behaviour of their brethren towards Palestinian women and children and the EAPPI volunteers.
Throughout his time on the archbishop’s throne Williams was mad-keen on interfaith dialogue, for what good it has done, and spent an inordinate amount of time with Chief Rabbi Sacks. At one point the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post suggested that the chief rabbi had “in some respects eclipsed the archbishop as the religious voice of the country”.
This is the UK, remember, where Jews comprise just 0.5 per cent of the population and Muslims are eight times greater in number.
Nor was the Archbishop the best-known Christian, according to a survey three years ago. Harry Webb (aka Cliff Richard) beat him into second place . The survey made Cliff even “bigger than the Pope”, who trailed in seventh place.
Now we hear that the squeaky-clean, born-again-Christian megastar is to perform in Israel in July, and the Israeli media are making a meal of it. Does none of these pious dudes understand the appalling, inhuman situation out there?
I’m not sorry to see the back of Rowan Williams – a good guy but not the right man at this time. And what are we to make of his replacement, archbishop number 105, who will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March? Justin Welby is touted as an expert in conflict resolution, but he comes from nowhere and is not known for his concern about the Holy Land. His grandfather was a Jewish immigrant and Welby was Bishop of Durham for barely five minutes before landing this top job.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Welby last year helped mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral and – wait for it – abstained in last summer’s vote at the Anglican Synod which endorsed the EAPPI.
In my view, anyone who cannot bring himself to give wholehearted backing to a worthy humanitarian project like EAPPI shouldn’t be leading a great Christian church.
Father Roy writes:
The Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders listed below have declared their commitment to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace in the Holy Land. They declared: “We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.” Key word: “mobilize“. Peace, Roy
Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.
We recently witnessed shadows of dusk. We mourn for the lives lost and shattered during the violence that gripped southern Israel and Gaza. What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate. The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians. Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace.
The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.
As people of faith, we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible. Egypt and the United States helped achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible.
As members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), we affirm President Obama’s support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides. Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region. Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support. Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.
The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders of NILI are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace. We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.
Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement.
List of Endorsers (Organizations for identification only)
Bishop Richard E. Pates, D.D., Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
Bishop Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
David Neff, Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
John Buchanan, Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
Rabbi Burt Visotzky
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
Visit the NILI website: www.nili-mideastpeace.org…