Pax Christi International participated in an Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage which has returned from the Holy Land. Members of the delegation issued a press release which you can find below
8 – 13 April 2002, an ecumenical delegation of peace pilgrims from five European countries visited Israeli and Palestinian Peace Organisations in the Holy Land. For the members of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi International and the network of peace churches “Church and Peace”, the purpose of this visit was to express their solidarity with all those committed to the preservation of human rights and to overcoming violence by peaceable means.
The group met with, among others, the Latin Patriarch of the Catholic Church and President of Pax Christi International Michel Sabbah, the speaker for “Rabbis for Human Rights” Jeremy Milgrom, representatives of the Commission for Justice and Peace in Jerusalem, the Centre for Jewish-Arab Cooperation’s “Open House” in Ramle near Tel Aviv, the Committee against House Demolition, the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Checkpoint Watch, Peace Now, the two centres for conflict resolution, Reconciliation in Bethlehem and the Arab Educational Institute, also in Bethlehem.
The present situation is characterised by despair, fear and a daily struggle for survival in the occupied territories. With no perspective for a more hopeful future, the present situation cannot be overcome.
In their discussions, the European guests found a large area of agreement between Israeli and Palestinian peace groups. The fundamental cause for the present situation has repeatedly been explained to be the occupation of the Palestinian territories and its consequence, without an end to this occupation, security is considered unattainable for Israel as well.
The on-going violence against the Palestinian people was condemned as much as the violence against Israelis, in the form of suicide attacks, has been condemned. Peace groups describe the Gaza Strip as one huge prison, while the people of the West Bank are also virtual prisoners. The spiral of violence must end. As soon as a truce is reached, a political peace plan must be put into effect. For the Palestinians who have suffered humiliation, it is a matter of life or death.
Once a truce is established the Israeli Army must be withdrawn from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The only foundation for any future peace for either side lies in a two-state solution with secure boundaries and with Jerusalem being the capital city of both the State of Israel and the new State of Palestine. To achieve this, international help from outside, in the form of a UN mission, is indispensable.
“We need a win-win solution…” said a member of the Commission for Justice and Peace in Jerusalem, “…in which neither side loses face”. In order to achieve this, many peace groups insist on an arms embargo, economic sanctions and a stop to the extension of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In order to reach a permanent solution, the economic and social inequality between Israeli and Palestinian society must gradually be reduced.
Yehezkel Landau of the Jewish-Christian-Moslem meeting centre “Open House” in Ramle expressed the opinion that after all that had happened in the past weeks, no peace plan, however rational, would suffice. Pain, despair and distrust are so strong that persons trained in empathetic listening, non-violent communication and conflict resolution are needed in order to overcome psychological barriers and to start the processes of reducing hostility and of reconciliation. “We need a detoxification of language” said Landau.
Local peace organisations continually emphasised the importance of visits of solidarity, particularly at this time, and expressed their gratitude for the presence of international peace groups in the country.
The members of the ecumenical peace group were Dr. Hildegard Goss-Mayr (Vienna), Honorary President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Paul Lansu (Brussels), staff member of the International Secretariat of Pax Christi, Minke de Vries (Neufchatel, Switzerland), long-standing leader of the Ecumenical Community Grandchamp, Dr. Christian Renoux (Paris), member of the board of the French branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Clemens Ronnefeldt (Krastel, Germany), peace worker for the German branch of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The group was strengthened by several hundred people in various parts of the world who expressed their support for the delegation of peace pilgrims in worship services, vigils and fasts.
Participants’ Contact Details:
Dr. Hildegard Goss-Mayr: +43 1 4855714
Fr. Paul Lansu: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Christian Renoux, +33 1 53280043
Clemens Ronnefeldt, +49 6762-2962