Back Christians in Israel-Palestine, says church leader

 A senior Palestinian church leader has called for continuing prayer and solidarity at a time of turmoil in Israel/Palestine. "Don't be afraid to speak,' was the message of Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan to the British and Irish churches. "There are Christians who support Israel's seizure of Palestinian land and repression of the Palestinian people as they believe this will hasten the return of Christ. They do not hold back in demonising all Palestinians, while those who look for an end to the injustice suffered by Palestinians are restrained, fearing unjust accusations of anti-Semitism,' he declared. Bishop Younan, Bishop of Jerusalem and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan, was addressing the Middle East Forum of the CTBI's Churches' Commission on Mission. Bishop Younan painted a grim picture of life today for Palestinians. Curfew has become normal with people imprisoned in their homes. The occasional short lifting of the curfew is the exception. There is no school, no university, no movement, no work, no money, and no hope. Life has become intolerable, he said. In the words of a criminologist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, 'people are equalising life and death'. The suicide bombings are a symptom, but the root cause is the illegal occupation that deprives a whole people of dignity and rights. Bishop Younan emphasised the clear evidence that there were no suicide bombings as long as the Palestinians had hope. This was the case from 1997 - 2000. "Not one Christian leader has ever endorsed suicide attacks, but if you corner a cat it will attack," he stressed. The moral problem to be faced, he said, was the cycle of revenge and counter-revenge. The Evangelical Lutheran leader appealed for support for the indigenous Christian community, which, though small, exerts a real influence for justice, peace and reconciliation through its large provision of education and social work. What is needed is not so much relief to make the unjust and intolerable tolerable, but support for the work of the local Christians and the clear speaking of truth. Bishop Younan is totally opposed to anti-Semitism. 'What is needed is equality and honesty between peoples,' he says. At its meeting in London this week, the Middle East Forum (which brings together representatives of church mission departments and agencies) was considering the churches' participation in the new World Council of Churches' programme to bring a just peace and an end to the illegal occupation.

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