“When justice is done we will have peace; when peace is achieved we will begin the long haul of reconciliation”.
That was the message of a delegation of senior Palestinian Christian churchmen who visited the island of Ireland last week to promote the Kairos Palestine document, which seeks a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis as well as an end to illegal settlements in Palestine.
Dr Naim Stifan Ateek, the retired Anglican Canon of St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem made his comment in an address to political, religious and trade union representatives at Belfast City Hall.
He was accompanied by Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna of the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Fr Peter Madros, a spokesman for Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem.
“We come from the Christian Churches of Jerusalem to bring the voice of the Palestinians to the people of Ireland. The Kairos Palestine document was inspired by Kairos South Africa, which contributed to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa. We hope the Kairos Palestine document will contribute to the demise of injustice in our land”, Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna said.
He underlined that as Christians they were committed to non violence but also asserted Palestinians’ right and duty to creatively resist the occupation by Israel.
One such way is to encourage those contemplating visiting the Holy Land to seek out ‘ethical pilgrimages’ which make an effort to engage with the local indigenous Palestinian Christians and their churches.
That way, Archbishop Hanna underlined, pilgrims could challenge the oppression and the economic gain made at Palestinian Christians’ expense.
Their call came as Fides revealed that the percentage of Christians in the Palestinian territories has halved over the last 13 years. Christians now make up just 1% of the population, down from 2% in 2000.
The Fides report quotes the secretary-general of an Islamic-Christian Committee for the protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Places, Hanna Issa, as confirming that only about 5,000 Christians remain in the city of Jerusalem. He termed the sharp decline in the Christian population as a “social disaster”.
Archbishop Hanna, Dr Ateek and Fr Madros held meetings with the two archbishops of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Archbishop Michael Jackson last Thursday. On Friday they travelled to Armagh to meet with the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady. They also met Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor in Belfast.
In all of their meetings they called for visitors to the Holy Land to focus their attention on the plight of the 155,000 ‘living stones’ of Christianity remaining in Israel and the Palestinian territories as opposed to the archaeological stones of ancient sites associated with the Christian faith.
In Belfast City Hall, Dr Naim Ateek recalled how until the Good Friday Agreement, the people of Northern Ireland “were bleeding” and added, “We are still bleeding. We need help.”
Ulster Unionist Councillor, Ronnie Crawford, told ciNews that there was “a burning sense of injustice” amongst those who attended the meeting at the way the Palestinians were being treated by Israel.
He condemned Israel for “flouting international law and getting away with gross human rights abuses” and called for an end to the “state of apartheid in Israel”.
“I was forcibly struck by what Fr Madros said today about people from the island of Ireland going to see the sights of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. The Israelis are making vast amounts of money out of the Christian heritage while the indigenous Christian population are being heavily discriminated against and persecuted”, Cllr Crawford, who is a Presbyterian Elder, said.
Archbishop Hannah said that the three leaders, Greek Orthodox, Anglican and Roman Catholic, were in Ireland as one family with a message of peace and justice.
“Any kind of extremism is an attempt to erase the civilised and spiritual face of the Holy Land. We have to all work together to put an end to oppression. Human beings are human beings regardless of religion or nationality – God didn’t distinguish between these when he created the human family”, he said.
By: Ci News