MIDDLE EAST: Jerusalem church leaders call for support to end embargo

March 30, 2007 [Episcopal News Service] Leaders of churches in Jerusalem in an Easter message have urged Christians around the world to work to end an international financial boycott of the Palestinian government imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement came to power in 2006.

"Many vital areas of community are in a desperate plight as a result of the withholding of this aid -- not least justice, economy, medical and educational," the 13 patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem, including Anglican Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal, said in a statement released on March 30.

Much of the international community cut financial aid to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas took over the Palestinian government, refusing to rescind its commitment to violently destroy Israel.

In February, however, Hamas and the Fatah group of the president of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas signed a power-sharing agreement. It aimed at getting the blockade lifted, at least partly, by agreeing to respect past accords that recognize Israel.

On March 28, leaders of Arab nations in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh said they could recognize Israel if it withdrew from territory it captured in 1967.

"Pray for the newly formed unity government of the Palestinians together with the Israeli government and the Arab initiative, to work for taking away fear and hence all oppression, the walls, the barriers and the prisons," stated the Christian leaders, from the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican communities.

"Then we would ask that you make a particular effort to encourage your particular nation to stop the embargo imposed upon us and to restore aid to the Palestinians," they said in their message for Easter.

They pledged to work to "to build a better tomorrow for all of us, Palestinians or Israelis, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druzes."