Church leaders voice their concern over conflict in Israel and Palestine

British and Irish Church leaders have this week written tothe Heads of Churches in Jerusalem assuring them of the prayers forcontinued international support for a sustainable politicalresolution. The letter was sent by Churches Together in Britain andIreland and signed by leaders from Anglican, Roman Catholic,Reformed, Free Church, African and Afro-Caribbeantraditions.

The text of the letter read:

To: Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

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

We are keenly aware of and saddened by the seemingly endlesspain being endured by the peoples of the Holy Land, Palestinian andIsraeli, and assure you of the prayers of many in our congregationsfor continued international support for a sustainable politicalresolution. We continue to believe that a two-state solutionrepresents the most realistic path to a just and durable peace andthus express the hope that both sides of the conflict will work toensure that measures necessary to build confidence between Israelisand Palestinians are given every chance to succeed.

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

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

2. The ending of the Israeli presence in Occupied PalestinianTerritories remains a sine qua non for the achievement of peace andlong-term security for all. We have studied the statements ofchurch leaders in Jerusalem, as well as those of the Holy See andthe World Council of Churches, and will continue to represent thematter 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 offfrom their farmlands, workplaces, schools and health clinics. Italso further undermines the search for peace itself. The Israeliauthorities undeniably have responsibility for the security oftheir own citizens. It is difficult to accept, however, that therouting 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 achievedonly two years hence. We thus share your dismay about thisdevelopment, and assure you of the seriousness of politicalrepresentations which churches continue to make towards the Israeliand British Governments on this specific matter.

With sincere regards for your work and witness,

David Goodbourn (General Secretary, Churches Together inBritain and Ireland, together with:
Special Apostle Samuel Abidoye (Cherubim and Seraphim Council ofChurches)
Most Revd Fr Olu Abiola (Chairman, Council of African and CaribbeanChurches UK)
Bishop Basil of Sergievo (Administrator, Diocese of Sourozh,Russian Orthodox Church)
Revd Esme Beswick (President, Joint Council for Anglo-CaribbeanChurches)
Rt. Revd Tom Butler (Chairman, Public Affairs Unit, Church ofEngland)
Most Revd Bruce Cameron (Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church)
Revd Tom Bruch (General Secretary, Lutheran Council of GreatBritain)
Revd David Coffey (General Secretary, Baptist Union of GreatBritain)
Revd David Cornick (General Secretary, United ReformedChurch)
Most Revd Mario Conti (Archbishop of Glasgow, Vice President of theRoman Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland)
Revd David Deeks (General Secretary/Secretary of the MethodistConference)
John O. Fulton (General Secretary, United Free Church ofScotland)
His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios (Oecumenical Patriarchate,Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain)
Revd Michael Heaney (General Secretary, CongregationalFederation)
Rt Revd Nathan Hovhannisian (Acting President, Council of OrientalOrthodox Churches, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syrianand Syrian-Indian Orthodox)
Commissioner Alex Hughes (Territorial Commander of the UnitedKingdom and Republic of Ireland)
Revd Dewi M. Hughes (General Secretary, Union of WelshIndependents)
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 GreatBritain 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 TestamentAssembly)