Canon brought message of love, peace
Samah Sabawi
The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, November 09, 2001


Re: Palestinian Anglican priest under fire, Nov. 4.

At a time when the world is crying out war, human rights are grossly violated and lives are lost to the evils of racism and intolerance, Canon Naim Ateek's voice in Ottawa sounded like music to the ears of the hundreds who greeted him.

He reminded us of times long before Sept. 11, before the collapse of the Oslo Agreement and the reoccupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Those were times when we believed in peace and the possibility that the Israelis and Palestinians could reconcile and start anew.

Ignoring Rev. Ateek's profound message, the Citizen gave a false interpretation by the biased Christian fundamentalist Paul Merkley, who claimed to know more about Christian Palestinians than a Palestinian priest who was born there and who has lived and worked there all his life.

Mr. Merkley dismissed Canon Ateek's personal tragedy of being driven out of his home in 1948, suggesting that Palestinian nationalists are known to make up similar stories.

Is Mr. Merkley denying the fact that millions of Palestinians live today in subhuman conditions in refugee camps in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as a direct result of Israeli rule of the gun of what was once Palestine?

And does Mr. Merkley honestly believe that home demolitions, assassinations, shooting and bombardment of unarmed civilians, denying civilians food supplies and medical treatment, and stripping them of their livelihood, is a just way for Israel to treat the Palestinians?

Canon Ateek's words carried no incitement to hate, but an invitation to love and build peace.

His universal message transcended cultural and religious barriers by reminding us that the time of religious extremism cannot last forever.

He demanded that we not call for absolute justice from Israel, but for a justice with mercy, implying we must show mercy even to our enemies.

That was a lesson in grace, hope and forgiveness. These were the words of Rev. Ateek. All I can say to that is, Amen.

Samah Sabawi,