Calling on Canadian Anglicans to remember their connection to Christians in Palestine, Archbishop Michael Peers, the Anglican primate, has issued a strongly worded plea for peace with justice in the Middle East.
In an open letter to Canadian Anglicans, which outlines some of the history of the conflict in the Middle East (see page 5), Archbishop Peers noted the recent heroism of the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Riah Al Abu Assal, who went to Bethlehem "as a witness to peace and justice."
Archbishop Peers also said that many Canadian Anglican clergy and lay people have served at St. George's College in Jerusalem. "These are flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters who serve Christ in the midst of violence and terror ... In the Anglican Communion, there is no `us' and `them'."
The primate's letter noted that the British promise in 1916 of a Palestinian state has not been fulfilled. He added that the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948-49 and after the 1967 war and "the legacy of despair" that has resulted for their descendents "is a deep offence against God's justice."
Overlooked in the actions of Israel's armed forces and the desperation of the Palestinians, Archbishop Peers noted, "is the overwhelming majority of Palestinians whose struggle for peace has been humane, and the many Israelis whose quest for peace is undermined by the distorted assertion that the only path to peace is littered with the bodies of the innocent. Attacks against civilians, in Hebron or Jerusalem, by the state or by a suicide bomber cannot lead to peace," he said.
Earlier, other religious leaders around the world, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, condemned the dramatic escalation of violence in the Holy Land. The church leaders had called for U.S. intervention.
As the primate's statement was released, U.S. president George Bush bowed to international pressure and sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East in an attempt to broker a cease-fire and re-open Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. President Bush was also issuing strongly worded statements to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for an immediate withdrawal of Israel's defense forces from Palestinian towns and cities.
In London, Archbishop Carey had appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to step back from the "brink of catastrophe." Archbishop Carey, leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans, called for steps to "help salve the pain and frustration of Palestinians who long for a land of their own" and to "honour the deep Israeli yearning for peace and security and for an end to the hostility towards Israel's very existence."
Robert Edgar, general secretary of the U.S. National Council of Churches, told a press conference that with the escalating violence, "grievance is being heaped upon grievance, tragedy upon tragedy and grief upon grief."
Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A., called for United Nations peacekeepers to be sent to the region. …