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Friday, December 9, 2016
Western Christians ignore Palestinians, says bishop
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¬†The Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, said Christian churches in the USA, Australia, Canada and the UK are ignoring the plight of the Palestians. Speaking to a group of church leaders, journalists and NGO staff in London this week, Bishop Riah appealed for help and support from the world's churches. He said: "There are two billion Christians in the world - we've received messages of encouragement and support from Malaysia, even Sudan! But the church in the States, Australia, Canada and the UK is very quiet. "How are we meant to help our congregations? We are desperate for support these days, we are desperate." Rev Hanna Mansour from St Luke's hospital in Nablus, West Bank, agreed. He said: "It is time for the churches to show their commitment. Statements are not enough, we need more tangible things. Christians must show solidarity with the marginalised, the injured, the victims of injustice and those under occupation. Talk is easy during peaceful times; it is a burden during these difficult days of conflict." Bishop Riah also spoke of his frustration that news coverage tends to ignore the human rights abuses, suffering and apartheid situations that Palestinians are facing daily. "We need to protect human rights across the board - not one party only," he said. "We live in harmony with the Muslim community. The current Intifada has reflected Palestinian unity to the world. We live together under the Israeli tank fire, as human beings, as one people. Enough talking ≠ we want action from the world's Christians. We want to challenge them to a commitment, a world wide commitment from Christians." The Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem has 34 institutions employing over 1,200 people in hospitals, clinics, schools and in homes for those with disabilities and the elderly. He said: "Our institutions are badly needed in times of war but, without support and finance, we cannot help." Unemployment in Gaza is now at 81% and in the West Bank over 180,000 people are out of work. People had invested greatly in what was meant to be a boom in tourism but instead hotels lie empty. The bishop gave one example of a hotel in the centre of Jerusalem which has 360 rooms yet only nine guests. St George's College has had to cancel nearly all of its courses as people are unable to get to Jerusalem and overseas students are returning home. Rev Mansour commented: "Things are awful. I have never experienced such a situation, even during the first Intifada. The amount of violence practised by the Israeli military is simply intolerable. Movement around Nablus is almost impossible. The present situation is economically crushing, and there is no way for families to provide their daily bread. They come to us, the hospital and the Church, for help, and assistance." The Bishop said: "In Nazareth, Israeli Arabs the people recognise they are better off than their brothers and sisters in Gaza and the West Bank. In response the congregation at Christ Church, Nazareth, recently collected over 20,000 kilos of rice, flour and cooking oil for 100 families in the West Bank. This was taken in UN lorries to Jerusalem and then put into other vehicles and taken to the West Bank. Within Jerusalem the congregation of St George's Cathedral have also collected food and clothing to support 30 families in nearby Ramallah." The Bishop said Palestine is economically reaching a point of complete disintegration. He concluded: "I pray one day that when we stand before the throne of God we will be able to say that we did not ignore God's call to the least, to the homeless, the hungry and the bereaved. "Never underestimate what each one of us can do - the church began with 12 people who were ordinary individuals and who between them changed the course of history - it is time for the church to change history once more in the Middle East." The event was hosted by the Amos Trust, a UK Christian charity working for 'justice and hope for the forgotten'. The Amos Trust are a delegated channel for support for the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem - cheques made payable to 'Amos Trust' and sent to Diocese of Jerusalem Appeal, Amos Trust, 83 London Wall, London EC2M 5ND.
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