Ariel Sharon rejects Christian peace initiative

 The Israeli government has rejected an offer by the Christian churches to act as mediators in the current crisis. The Rt Rev Riah Abu El Assal, Episcopal Bishop in Jerusalem, told members of Rediscovering Palestine, a group of charities and organisations working towards peace with justice in Israel and Palestine: "Secular powers aren't finding a settlement to the deepening conflict so the churches must be involved." He said eight heads of Christian denominations joined together in offering to meet with Arafat and Sharon to work as mediators and fulfil what Christians believe to be part of their mandate, to work for reconciliation. Arafat responded immediately and invited the bishops to meet with him as he demonstrated, once again, that he welcomes intervention. Sharon did not reply to the letter from the Bishops. It took four reminders to obtain a response from him. Eventually he offered a meeting with Peres. "Sharon doesn't have his heart on peace," commented Bishop Riah. Meanwhile, another Rediscovering Palestine member, the Elijah Trust, reported that the Palestinian priest Elias Chacour (author of 'Blood Brothers' and 'We Belong to the Land') spoke recently in Bedford, recounting a message of hope that amongst the warmongering there are still acts of kindness emerging from the grass roots. Travelling south to Jericho on a rainy day last month, Abuna Elias Chacour came upon a Jewish woman whose car had spun out of control on the slippery surface of a settler 'by pass' road. She had ended up in the ditch. A car load of young Palestinian men were urging her to leave her car whilst they lifted it back on the road for her. She was visibly paralysed with fear that they meant her harm. Abuna was able to persuade this young woman, in Hebrew, to leave her car and sit in his, assuring her that she was quite safe. Just as the Palestinians replaced her car on the road, a group of Israeli soldiers arrived brandishing their guns towards the young Palestinians. As if awoken from a trance, the woman left Abuna's car and threw herself between the soldiers and the Palestinians. "Stand with us, you will be safe " the soldiers commanded. She refused, saying: " I will stand with these Palestinian friends who have saved my life". For more details about Rediscovering Palestine contact All Hallows on the Wall, 83 London Wall, London EC2M 5ND, Emil

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