Church leaders voice their concern over conflict in Israel and Palestine

British and Irish Church leaders have this week written to the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem assuring them of the prayers for continued international support for a sustainable political resolution. The letter was sent by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and signed by leaders from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Reformed, Free Church, African and Afro-Caribbean traditions.

The text of the letter read:

To: Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose birth amidst the violence of Roman Palestine we celebrate in a few weeks' time.

We are keenly aware of and saddened by the seemingly endless pain being endured by the peoples of the Holy Land, Palestinian and Israeli, and assure you of the prayers of many in our congregations for continued international support for a sustainable political resolution. We continue to believe that a two-state solution represents the most realistic path to a just and durable peace and thus express the hope that both sides of the conflict will work to ensure that measures necessary to build confidence between Israelis and Palestinians are given every chance to succeed.

In response to your Statement of 26 August 2003, we wish to make three observations:

1. We share your abhorrence of the level of violence that has grown to characterise the conflict, which has inflicted such damage on families and their livelihoods, and on both societies at large. We are asking our congregations to continue to support Palestinians and Israelis pledged to work for non-violent solutions.

2. The ending of the Israeli presence in Occupied Palestinian Territories remains a sine qua non for the achievement of peace and long-term security for all. We have studied the statements of church leaders in Jerusalem, as well as those of the Holy See and the World Council of Churches, and will continue to represent the matter to our own Government.

3. The erection of the 'separation wall' or 'security fence' poses a very serious threat to many facets of Palestinian life, with over 210,000 people in danger of being effectively cut off from their farmlands, workplaces, schools and health clinics. It also further undermines the search for peace itself. The Israeli authorities undeniably have responsibility for the security of their own citizens. It is difficult to accept, however, that the routing of this barrier will not create more 'facts on the ground', to the detriment of a potential, viable Palestinian state which, according to the Quartet's 'Road Map' is timetabled to be achieved only two years hence. We thus share your dismay about this development, and assure you of the seriousness of political representations which churches continue to make towards the Israeli and British Governments on this specific matter.

With sincere regards for your work and witness,

David Goodbourn (General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, together with:
Special Apostle Samuel Abidoye (Cherubim and Seraphim Council of Churches)
Most Revd Fr Olu Abiola (Chairman, Council of African and Caribbean Churches UK)
Bishop Basil of Sergievo (Administrator, Diocese of Sourozh, Russian Orthodox Church)
Revd Esme Beswick (President, Joint Council for Anglo-Caribbean Churches)
Rt. Revd Tom Butler (Chairman, Public Affairs Unit, Church of England)
Most Revd Bruce Cameron (Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church)
Revd Tom Bruch (General Secretary, Lutheran Council of Great Britain)
Revd David Coffey (General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain)
Revd David Cornick (General Secretary, United Reformed Church)
Most Revd Mario Conti (Archbishop of Glasgow, Vice President of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland)
Revd David Deeks (General Secretary/Secretary of the Methodist Conference)
John O. Fulton (General Secretary, United Free Church of Scotland)
His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios (Oecumenical Patriarchate, Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain)
Revd Michael Heaney (General Secretary, Congregational Federation)
Rt Revd Nathan Hovhannisian (Acting President, Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syrian and Syrian-Indian Orthodox)
Commissioner Alex Hughes (Territorial Commander of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland)
Revd Dewi M. Hughes (General Secretary, Union of Welsh Independents)
Rt.Revd David Konstant (Chairman, International Department, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales)
Revd Alan D. McDonald (Convenor, Church and Nation Committee, Church of Scotland)
Most Revd Barry Morgan (and bishops of the Church in Wales)
Mrs Jackie Morten (Provincial Board, Moravian Church of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
Revd Dafydd H. Owen (Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Wales)
Revd W. James Rea (President, Methodist Church in Ireland)
Revd Geoffrey Roper (Secretary, Free Churches Group)
Revd Nezlin Sterling (General Secretary, New Testament Assembly)

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