The author. who works in the area of interfaith relations at the Anglican Communion Office in London recently visited the Holy Land for the first time. She took a course "Abraham: Yesterday and Today" at St. George's College, Jerusalem, while staying at "'The House of Abraham', run by a community of French nuns offering hospitality to all regardless of nationality or faith". "The wall was very much a feature of our visit. .... The experience of checkpoints also introduced us to the apartheid that is developing. Being a group of American, Australian, English and Nepalese we were waved through with little inconvenience, not so the local residents". "One of our group had just completed three months with a Christian Peacekeeper Team and guided us around the team apartment in Hebron. It was a joy to see young Palestinian children emerge from a face painting session all smiles and giggles. Again we were reminded that the dehumanising is on both sides as we looked over to the Israeli barracks populated by young conscripts most of whom are terrified and simply want to go home". "During some of the evenings we received excellent lectures on Abraham within Islam, current work in building relationships between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Jerusalem, and Abraham in the Jewish tradition." "Worshipping with Arab Christians, praying for the peace of Jerusalem through psalms and intercessions whilst actually there, seeing the wall, all these were moving experiences."
See also advertisement for "Saint George's College, Jerusalem" on page 23 which lists three courses: Palestine of Jesus (20 April - 3 May 2007); St. Paul and the Early Church (10-23 May 2007); and St. Paul in Greece (14-25 June 2007). www.sgcjerusalem.org
Israel is in the process of building a wall or separation fence which is says is needed to protect them from suicide bombers. "Church leaders in the region are vehemently opposed to the barrier's construction. Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, the Episcopal bishop in Jerusalem, warns that Israelis are fencing themselves in as well. `The best of secure borders are reconciled neighbours, and the closest of neighbours are the Palestinians. Those fences and walls will not only encircle Palestinian towns and add to the grudges, but they will also close the Israeli community into a kind of ghetto,' he said. `The root cause of all of this business of building walls is the occupation. Once the Israelis quit occupying the lands of others, then they can hope for and receive the security they so desire. This is not the time to build walls. This is the time to build bridges. And only if they learn how to build a bridge rather than a wall will they guarantee themselves security, peace and stability,' the bishop said." The farmers of Jayyous are protesting the building of the wall which cuts them off from their fertile fields and the town's wells. Their protest is supported by international members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, coordinated by the World Council of Churches.
"The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) averted what some delegates feared could seriously damage Anglican-Jewish dialogue by passing a toned down and pared down alternative to a resolution on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East." "The ACC voted to use the alternative resolution, which called on Israel, among others, to end its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; free immediately all settlement building with the intention to abandon its settlement policy in preparation for a Palestinian state; remove the separation barrier (wall) where it violates Palestinian land; and end home demolitions".
"Bethlehem today experiences fear, violence and division. Security fears of one community leads to division and alienation from its neighbours; the enormous wall built right through the City, consolidates division and marginalization. The promise of peace from of old is still unfulfilled in this City which lies at the heart of our Christian faith. We took the Christmas decorations down weeks ago, to be put away for another year. Yet we should not forget Bethlehem and all its people, Christians, Muslims and Jews, who live the daily reality of fear and division, and we should pray for them and for their leaders continually that all may be led into the way of peace".
Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, outlines the problems facing Christians in the countries of the Middle East (including Iraq, Turkey and Egypt) upon his return from a two day visit to Bethlehem from 20-23 December 2006. For "centuries, they [Middle Eastern Christians] have played a crucial role in practically all of those nations we now regard as uniformly Muslim -- even Iran. They have been a reminder for both the Arab world and the West that 'Arab' and 'Muslim' are not the same -- and that Muslim nations have a history of coping hospitably with Christians on their doorstep. As Christian populations migrate, it all fuels the myth in East and West -- that Islam can't live with other faiths and that the East-West collision is an irreconcilable clash of faiths and cultures. Yet Christian populations can genuinely be part of the solution". "These [Christian] communities will only survive if fellow-Christians in the West decide to pay a bit of attention. This doesn't mean using clumsy political or military pressure to 'protect' them, in ways that just reinforce the idea that they're Western allies and so must be unreliable. That's happened too often in the past. It means being willing to protest when they are ill-treated; to make contact with them directly, to set up links between local churches here and in the Middle East; to remember when we visit the region that they exist and they need friends. It's not that Christians are being actively persecuted by Muslim governments on the whole. It's a matter of rising tides of extremism which governments are as keen to check as anyone". Commenting on his time in Bethlehem, Dr. Williams noted that "its Christian population [is] down to barely a quarter .... But their plight is made still more intolerable by the tragic conditions created by the 'security fence' which almost chokes the shrinking town". "The first Christian believers were Middle Easterners. It's a very sobering thought that we might live to see the last native Christian believers in the region. It's not a problem we can go on ignoring if we care about the health and stability of the Middle East in general".
See also article "The UK Pilgrims" p. 33 of this issue.
Nine photos on two pages with caption text as follows: "Kenneth Kearon installed as Canon of St. George's Cathedral. These photos were taken by the editor [Jim Rosenthal] to mark Canon Kenneth Kearon's visit to the Holy Land. He was installed as a canon of the cathedral and visited the sites and people of the land. He preached at Sunday liturgy and joined Bishop Riah in welcoming pilgrims from Taiwan. A large turn out of ecumenical guests greeted Canon Kearon and his wife Jennifer at a cathedral dinner and the Secretary General attended a meeting of a broadly based Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders group. The wall and the many tractors that create the wall met the team head on as they visited Bethlehem. Along with Bishop Riah, the Very Rev. John Tidy and Fr. Paul Lillie, made sure the new canon had a complete programme".
The Rt. Rev. Peter Jintaro Ueda, Anglican Bishop of Tokyo, of the Holy Catholic Church in Japan, led a 12-member group on a 10 day visit to Jerusalem from 3-10 February 2004. The primary purpose of the visit was an attempt "to share the mission and ministries of the Churches and Christians who have been strongly seeking the justice and peace in this particular region, where the root causes of major conflicts of the present world seem to lie. . . . . we wanted to visit our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are really in a difficult situation in Palestine/Israel. We have been hoping, therefore, to see as many Palestinian friends as possible and to learn from them". The delegation released a 10 point statement whose first point condemned the on-going construction of Israel's Security Wall.