5 AUG 98 . LC092
Lambeth Conference calls for Jerusalem as shared capital
by Katie Sherrod
Lambeth Conference Communications
The Lambeth Conference Wednesday morning (August 5) affirmed that Jerusalem should be the capital city of both Israel and an independent Palestinian state with free access for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In a plenary business session, the conference adopted Resolution V.20, proposed by a regional conference of the Middle East and South Asian bishops. It passed overwhelmingly after a brief discussion.
Bishop-coadjutor Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal in Jerusalem, introduced the resolution by comparing Palestinians to the Samaritan who was left by the side of the road, robbed of everything including his homeland. He said Christians who visit the Holy Land too often simply bypass the Palestinians as they visit the shrines.
"The principle solutions must be to conclude a meaningful and just peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Bishop-elect Riah said. The peace must include "a right of return to their lands for the Palestinians refugees . . .address human rights and inequalities . . .encourage investment in higher education, infrastructure and job creation projects . . . and develop a more expansive partnership within the world-wide Body of Christ between the church communities you represent and us, the indigenous Christians."
Proposed amendments prompt debate
Bishop Josiah Idowu-Feaeron of Kaduna (Nigeria) suggested what he called a "little amendment" to the part of the resolution calling on the government of Israel to recognize the "right of Palestinians, Christians and Muslims alike" to build homes and institutions in Jerusalem. He asked that "we also call on the Arab world to recognize the right of the Israelites to exist."
Bishop Idowu said his desire for this addition grew out of concerns that Arab condemnation of terrorism "on any state" did not include attacks on Israel because they do not recognize it as a nation. But Bishop Riah responded that the resolution gave the "implication of recognition" of the state of Israel by urging action on "the Israeli government."
As for the Arab countries, "the way forward is for a state of Palestine on Palestinian soil side by side with Israel," Bishop Riah said. "Until that is accomplished it will be difficult to continue to ask the Arab countries to recognize the state of Israel. The Palestinians are the bridge and the state of Palestine is the bridge. I am for a day when all the nations of the Middle East recognize one another and live in peace and harmony."
Bishop John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu of Stepney (England) asked that the motion be confined to what is happening within Israel, saying, "It's come from the region of the Middle East and we need to give them their right to pass the resolution as it stands without meddling into a lot of Middle East politics."
Bishop Ghais Abdel Malik, President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East and Bishop of Egypt, said that a few years earlier he would have agreed to the need for such an additional statement.
"But at the present situation we can see that most of the Arab countries are recognizing Israel. It's no longer that they want to throw them into the sea," he said. "They are stretching their hands without us telling them 'recognize Israel or not.' And we see the effort that is going around to have peace with Israel and the surrounding countries. Who is opposing to it? It's not the Arabs, I'm sorry to say. We as a church have to leave politics to the politicians. . . Leave the resolution as it is."
Bishop Richard Harries of Oxford (England), chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, asked that the record note "that there are a good number of Israelis and a good number of Jewish people throughout the world who recognize Palestinians' suffering and are trying to support them in their legitimate goals. And I would not want this resolution simply to go through with any kind of implication that it is working against Jewish people or Israelis as a whole."
Bishop Riah said that he did recognize such peace activists and had worked with them himself.
Bishop Michael Nuttall of the resolutions committee clarified that no formal amendment had been made, and that the vote was on the original resolution.