Mideast church leaders cautiously hopeful – News
As both Israelis and Palestinians take the first faltering steps to implement the international peace effort known as “the road map,” Mideast church leaders are expressing cautious optimism that their hopes for peace might finally be realized.
President George W. Bush formally launched the road map–endorsed by the quartet of the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia-in a June 4 summit in Jordan aimed at ending 33 months of ever-escalating violence.
The plan calls for reciprocal measures: a Palestinian crackdown on terrorism and a halt to Israeli land confiscation and demolition of houses; democratization of the Palestinian government and progressive withdrawal of Israeli military forces; and creation of a viable Palestinian state by 2005. Hopes were bolstered with a ceasefire adopted by the four Palestinian groups responsible for armed resistance to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from northern Gaza and the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
“Generally, people are ready but they are fearful–and there is not much trust,” said Naim Ateek, director of the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. “It’s part of the climate here–but that could change if things move in a new direction.” The road map can succeed only if Americans get guarantees from Israelis that they will comply. “But both sides must see a change of life on the ground, some clear signs of progress,” he said.
Sharing that optimism is Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and Jordan, who called the road map “a golden opportunity,” citing a new level of U.S. involvement.
“This makes a difference,” he said in his office around the corner from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The endorsement by the quartet “means that we have the whole world involved. For the first time they are endorsing a two-state solution with specific dates for implementation.. The test comes with big and painful responsibilities for both sides.”–Episcopal News Service
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