14 January 2005
The Election of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian President
Steve Hucklesby, International Affairs Secretary for the Methodist Church: "The overwhelming majority of Palestinians earnestly desire peace with Israel. Their choice of Mahmoud Abbas as President gives new impetus to the peace process. A peaceful resolution is most likely to emerge from a series of incremental confidence building measures. The proposed withdrawal of Israel from Gaza represents an important first step.
"We are encouraged again this week to hold in our minds a vision of two states living side by side in peace. This would be a far surer guarantor of security than the separation wall. It is saddening therefore to hear that Hamas militants continue to fire mortars into Israeli settlements in the north of the Gaza strip. It is vital at this time that all parties exercise restraint in order that Israeli and Palestinian leadership can concentrate on making progress on the political front."
Methodist minister the Rev Brian Shackleton is currently in Israel/Palestine as an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA.) During his three-month trip to the region he is visiting communities in and around Bethlehem and trying to discover both what ordinary people want and also how the churches can aid the situation.
Brian recently spoke at a meeting of EA's with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to discuss the elections. "In villages I visited I asked the question: 'Why vote?'" Shackleton said. "I got various answers and it was the younger generation which expected the most. Because they want peace, not violence. Because they want to build a community. Because they want security and to end corruption. Because they want their children to go to school, not in fear. Because they want to visit their cousins when they choose. Because they want to farm their fields which are now on the other side of the Wall. Abu Mazen, you have quite a challenge. Let's hope you get some help."
1) For more information about the EA programme visit http://www.eappi.org/
2) Brian Shackleton will return to the UK in February and will be available to talk about his experiences in Bethlehem. For details of how to invite Brian or another EA to speak at a meeting, see http://www.quaker.org.uk/eappi/speaker.html
3) Mahmoud Abbas is also known as Abu Mazen.