Updates July 2011



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  We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine.  The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date of publication.  

Comments made over the years by Israeli leaders


31 July 2011 14:44:41 -0700

July 30, 2011
On July 18-19, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster convened a conference aimed at supporting the beleaguered Christian community in the Holy Land. Held at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the International Conference on Christians in the Holy Land was the result of trips to the Holy Land by Williams and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, from which both returned convinced of the need to aid the region's Christians.

Hailed by Nichols as “an important step forward in collaboration between the Catholic and Anglican churches,” the conference was discussed by Williams and Pope Benedict XVI during the latter’s visit to the U.K. last September. Close to 100 people attended the two-day meeting, among them leaders of the Holy Land Churches, Vatican representatives, the British Foreign Office, the European Parliament, as well as Jewish representatives from the U.K. and Israel. Its aim was to promote what Williams called “an increased literate compassionate awareness of what is happening in Holy Land” and to foster “specific actions to encourage our brothers and sisters” in the region.

Both leaders stressed the urgency of concrete initiatives and focused advocacy, saying time was running out on the so-called two-state solution. People of faith, they argued, cannot wait for politicians to resolve the pressing problems facing Palestinian Christians. The archbishops expressed fears that the exodus of Christians from the region could reduce the region to a kind of "Christian Disneyland.” Williams advocated a “template for pilgrimages” that would promote engagement by pilgrims in local churches.

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July 28, 2011

Episcopal News Service | The 'real' future for Christians in the Holy Land

[Episcopal News Service] In mid-July some 90 religious, political, and media representatives gathered at London's Lambeth Palace at the behest of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to discuss in conference the situation of Christians in the Holy Land.

The purpose, according to Archbishop Williams, was to raise "literate, compassionate awareness" of the plight of Palestinian Christians in light of the "very significant" and "accelerating" decline of their population and to consider "What we can we do to help those Christians who so urgently want to stay in their homeland, and to imagine a future there for themselves?"

The conference followed closely on the heels of a mid-June BBC interview, in which Williams spoke of Palestinian Christians as a minority in a largely Muslim population and, with no mention of the effects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, attributed the Christian exodus solely to Muslim extremism. This led the Rev. Naim Ateek, the director of Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, to write the archbishop to point out that "as Palestinian Christians, we perceive ourselves as an integral part of the Palestinian people ... [and] do not refer to ourselves as a minority."

Ateek noted, moreover, that "as Palestinians, whether Christian or Muslim, we equally live under the oppression of the illegal Israeli occupation of our country." This was reiterated at the conference by Samer Makhlouf, a Roman Catholic, who reportedly called the occupation "the father of all problems in the region." (See John Allen's report in the National Catholic Reporter.)

Others at the conference tried to draw attention to the specifics of those problems… the sorts of hardships I have seen firsthand visiting Palestinian Christians in late 2008 and again this March. These effects are most clearly evident in Taybeh, the only entirely Christian village in Palestine, whose economic livelihood is threatened by the settlements and military outposts that surround it, and Bethlehem, whose many Christians are cut off from Jerusalem by the thirty-foot high separation wall and a tightening ring of settlements, including the veritable cities of Gilo and Har Homa. At the Christian-run Bethlehem University, for example, students with Jerusalem identity cards described the daily hassle they must endure at Israeli checkpoints, while those with West Bank papers complained about their complete inability to visit the holy sites -- or relatives -- in Jerusalem.

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July 28, 2011

Patriarch Twal's Words to London Meeting on Holy LandCardinal Tauran's Address on Holy Land Conference

"For Too Long, the People of This Land Have Been Mired in Conflict"
LONDON, JULY 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address that Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem delivered at a two-day conference on Christians in the Holy Land that was jointly hosted on Monday and Tuesday by the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster at Lambeth Palace in London.

* * *

Your Eminence, Excellencies,
Dear friends of the Holy Land, Dear lovers of peace,

I express my gratitude to Archbishop Williams and Archbishop Nichols for jointly hosting this two-day conference and for organizing this forum that will focus on the situation of our Christians in the Holy Land. I thank all of you for your presence here today. I recognize and appreciate your concern for our "living stones’ and your solidarity with the Churches in the Holy Land; for taking to heart our dream and desire for lasting peace; for your prayers and hopes that someday a peaceful situation can be attained; that all the people of the Holy Land can co-exist and live a normal life without fear.

The Current Reality

We live in an ancient and historic land, a holy place for the followers of the world’s three great monotheistic faiths. As Christians, it is a powerful and moving experience to be where Jesus was born and grew to manhood, where he lived and taught. It is the land of his passion, agony and resurrection. We stand just steps away from the site of his crucifixion and burial and from where he rose from the dead. But it is also heart-wrenching and painful, because we are still in the midst of an ongoing modern geopolitical conflict in this very same land.

The buzz and familiar words of this land are occupation, terrorism, settlements, rocket attacks, home demolitions and security walls. All these are powerfully resonant, alarming, hotly debated, and politically-charged.

But beyond the buzz words, are the people and their lives in this Land called Holy. Two national narratives, three great religions are well-represented in this gathering. For too long, the people of this land have been mired in conflict. Many innocent people especially the youth have suffered and continue to suffer.

Sadly, the conflict seems more entrenched than ever, and more complicated. Most of the trend lines are in the wrong direction:

-- more than 550.000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,

-- the demography of Jerusalem is changing rapidly, and a judicious and sensible balance of sacred space is being threatened,

-- some groups of Israelis and Palestinians refuse to mutually recognize the right of the other to exist, and

-- let us never forget the human tragedy taking place in Gaza.

And perhaps, the most complicating and alarming of all, is the fact that hope is being shattered. “Where there is no hope, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) An entire generation of Israelis and Palestinians grew up witnessing and experiencing violence, occupation, separation, and hatred. There have been fewer and less opportunities to interact, and a heightened suspicion and apprehension on both sides persist.

-- it is more and more difficult to envision a future of coexistence,

-- it is easier to demonize the other,

-- it is harder to forgive, and strenuous to start a constructive dialogue.

Why is this conflict not resolved? There are many reasons, and the past is replete with missed opportunities and a lack of good political determination. And of course, much of the blame must rest with the political leadership and authorities. Yet you, dear friends, are external influential forces who bear a responsibility as well.

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July 28, 2011

Zenit | Cardinal Tauran's Address on Holy Land Conference

"Jews, Christians and Muslims Must Be Heralds of Hope"
LONDON, JULY 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, delivered Tuesday at a two-day conference on Christians in the Holy Land that was jointly hosted by the Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in London. Cardinal Tauran spoke as Benedict XVI's representative to the conference.

* * *

By sending me to you, Pope Benedict XVI manifests his deep interest in this conference and, having had the privilege of being a member of the Papal Suite during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2009, I can remember the impact of his farewell speech at Tel Aviv airport when he pleaded for a lasting peace which can only rest on justice, genuine reconciliation and healing. But he did not hesitate also to state that one of the saddest sights of his pilgrimage was the Wall.

During these two days of exchange, I think that everybody here is convinced that if a wall can protect, it also divides and makes suspicion and ignorance grow. So it is important that Christians in particular, who are the disciples of the One who broke down "the barrier of hostility" to quote Saint Paul (Eph 2.14), should be in a condition to freely contribute to harmony and dialogue in the Israeli and Palestinian societies.

But unfortunately, we have to recognize that the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, like in other Middle East countries, is marked by precariousness. We must remember that the political evolution of the last 50 years has made the presence and the leadership of Christians fragile: revolutions and wars have contributed to weaken the Christian communities and favored the emigration of many families.

What we have to avoid is that the Holy Land becomes an archaeological and historical site to be visited like the Coliseum in Rome. For us Christians the Holy Land is the land of God’s revelation, the place where Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. We cannot even think that Bethlehem or the Holy Sepulcher should become museums with entrance tickets and guides who explain beautiful legends.

For us the Holy Places, the shrines, are much more than stones. The Holy Places are living testimonies which have around them a population, families with their schools, their cultural patrimony, their languages, their folklore, their artisans, handicrafts as well as hospitals, etc.

We have been repeating for years that we are a Christian minority in the Holy Land and in the Arab world. I think it is enough to repeat such evidence. We are a minority, but we are a minority that matters. I think of our schools, universities and hospitals, which welcome everybody, regardless of his or her religion.

Today the time has come to reflect on the place and the mission of Christian communities in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.

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July 28, 2011

Zenit | Arab Christians Are a Minority That Matters, Says Cardinal

2-Day Interreligious Gathering in London Discusses Holy Land 
LONDON, JULY 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Even though Arab Christians constitute a minority in the Middle East, they are a minority that matters, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialouge.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said this Tuesday at a two-day conference on Christians in the Holy Land that took place this week at Lambeth Palace.

Jointly hosted by the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and the Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the conference examined the challenging situation in which Christian communities in parts of the Holy Land find themselves.

Speaking as Benedict XVI's representative to the conference, Cardinal Tauran said it must be recognized that "the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, like in other Middle East countries, is marked by precariousness."

"We must remember that the political evolution of the last 50 years has made the presence and the leadership of Christians fragile," he said. "Revolutions and wars have contributed to weaken the Christian communities and favored the emigration of many families.

"What we have to avoid is that the Holy Land becomes an archaeological and historical site to be visited like the Coliseum in Rome."

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July 14, 2011

Zenit | Focolare President on Interreligious Meeting in Assisi

"The Road Opened by Blessed John Paul II Has Made Great Progress" 
ROME, JULY 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement of Maria Voce, president of the Focolari Movement, that was published today in the L'Osservatore Romano, on the meeting to be held this October in Assisi with representatives of the world's religions and non-believers titled "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace."

The meeting is the third in a series of similar gatherings held in the Italian town, the first two were held in 1986 and 2002. The 1986 meeting was called by John Paul II on the occasion of the U.N. International Year of Peace, and the next meeting, on Jan. 24, 2002, was convoked by John Paul II following the Sept. 11 attacks, and it was geared especially to ward off the danger of a confrontation with Islam.

* * *

In this time of great upheaval, "the walls in which the various civilizations live with their individual culture are crumbling," and, "a city-world without walls can be seen on the horizon, full of hope." This was the vision offered by Chiara Lubich in London in 2004, before an audience of representatives of numerous religions, on the topic of the future for a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious society of our time, faced with the risk of a clash of civilizations.

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July 4, 2011

World Council of Churches | Water conflicts pose threat to global peace

Conflicts over water threaten peace in the world, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, told a gathering in Germany on the banks of the River Danube to mark the end of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV).  

“It may well be that in the coming years water will be at the centre of conflicts,” Tveit told the Danube Peace Wave event in Ulm on 2 July.  

The Peace Wave project was launched in Ulm in September 2010 and was followed by events along the River Danube in Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It was intended as a contribution to and celebration of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence.  

The anti-violence decade started in Berlin in 2001 and culminated at an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Jamaica in May 2011. Water was one of the issues that emerged at the convocation as a source of potential conflict in the world.  

“The WCC is supporting the Ecumenical Water Network as one of many steps that demonstrate a link between peace with nature, and peace between peoples who find themselves in conflict over vital resources,” said Tveit.  

In a sermon at the cathedral of Ulm, Tveit highlighted the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as an issue underlying almost all the conflicts in the Middle East and into Asia.

In the Middle East as well, he said, “the unjust occupation and use of water is one of the issues in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians”.

Tveit said Christians everywhere have a role to play in the search for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. “What we believe, what we say, can be a contribution to peace and justice – or to something else entirely,” he said.

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July 4, 2011

World Council of Churches | Christian presence in the Middle East: theological and political challenges

The need for increased dialogue among churches in the Middle East and with churches in the East and West were only two of the many concerns addressed by 30 theologians, social scientists, politicians and church representatives at a recent conference in Volos, Greece.  

The five-day conference, which was sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Volos Theological Academy, was held 19-23 June as a follow up to a WCC Central Committee statement adopted in February on the presence and witness of Christians in the Middle East.  

This meeting comes in advance of a second meeting with religious leaders to take place in the Middle East in November 2012.  

At the conference the group wrestled with the theological and political challenges facing Christians in the Middle East and particularly in Palestine today. These include not only the need for bridging gaps and increasing dialogue, but the future of the Christian presence in the region.

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