Letter to Anglicans from the Primate

Article excerpt

`Illegal occupation' blamed for escalation in Middle East

Apr. 5, 2002

OVER THE PAST 10 days, suicide bombings in Israel and armoured invasions in the Occupied Territories have galvanized the attention of people around the world. For some the impact has been limited to rising prices at the gas pumps. For others, these events have built to a crescendo of anxious perplexity, as they try to find some sense in the tidal wave of images, assertions, and interpretations that flood the airwaves and fill the newspapers. Some see Israel as a nation under domestic threat from terrorists. Others see the Palestinians as a people under threat from the terror of the state of Israel. In the midst of the confusion, fear, and violence that threaten to explode onto the world stage, I invite members of the Anglican Church of Canada to take seriously the biblical call to peace with justice.

Maelstrom of terror

That call is not a new one. It is rooted in the experience of our Hebrew ancestors: in the God who defied the slavers of Egypt to liberate the Hebrew people; in the stern proclamation of the Hebrew prophets whose witness to God's justice remains fresh and topical in the maelstrom of terror and counter-terror that seems to define our world; in the tragic encounter of Jesus with those in authority, an encounter that led to his death by torture. But for people of faith, the call to peace with justice is rooted most deeply in a promise. For Christians in the Western traditions, that promise has been the focus of recent days, as we have celebrated the Easter power of God to overturn the outcomes of the unjust, to bring new life in the face of death, to restore communion where communion has been shattered, to refresh earth's bruised history through the power of the love that brought earth into being. The death and resurrection of Jesus are not simply the events of the past. They are the dynamic of the present and the promise of the future.

This tradition of peace with justice, of cooperating with God in a mission that seeks the world's healing, prompts the Anglican Church of Canada to bear witness to the struggles of persons, communities, and peoples for a sustainable and peaceable life. It is a tradition we share with our Christian partners throughout the world. We stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice because that is God's call to us. In doing so, we do not stand against our sisters and brothers in Israel, who share with us the covenant of Abraham, the liberation that God worked through Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and the promise of a peaceable kingdom. Indeed, with them, we stand against a world driven by hate, fear, and violence.

The history of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people is complicated by the actions of governments over the past century and more. The British promise in 1916 of a Palestinian state has not been fulfilled. The principles, by which partition was to have proceeded, brought forward in 1947 by the United Nations, have not been realized. The uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948-49 and again in the wake of the 1967 war, the legacy of despair that has resulted for their descendents, is a deep offence against God's justice.

What has emerged instead is a state, Israel, whose armed forces are experienced by many as an instrument of terror, and a people, the Palestinians, whose desperation has led increasingly to acts of violence that have themselves offended against God's justice and created obstacles to peace.

Tragically, in all this, what has been overlooked 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. …