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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rowan Williams on Christians in Israel/Palestine

The Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders are organising a conference on Christians in the Holy Land, that being the subject of Rowan Williams' appeal at General Synod's July 2011 Group of Sessions. "The Holy Land" is what Dr Williams and some other religious people choose to call Israel, the West Bank and East Jerusalem (although not, on this occasion, Gaza or Jordan, it appears). Christians in Israel itself enjoy a freedom of worship that would be envied elsewhere in the Middle East, although Israeli governments do sometimes get things wrong, and there is much that can be done to improve a less-than-perfect situation

Dr Williams himself says that the Christian population of Israel itself is stable; it is in the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) that he reports a fall. I understand why it matters to Christians to maintain living communities in "the Holy Land". Dr Williams recently told the BBC of his fear that Christians are becoming "a marginalised minority" in Bethlehem; Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which therefore holds a large measure of responsibility for the situation faced by Christians living there. 

Critics of Israel often call for the EU-Israel Association Agreement to be reviewed. Well, the EU also has an Association Agreement with the Palestinian Authority; as one UK Government website says: "There are many opportunities for UK Business in the Palestinian Territories" and that's as it should be. If Palestinian Christians are becoming a "marginalised minority" under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, then presumably pro-Palestinian campaigners will now call for a review of the EU-Palestinian Authority Association Agreement? Or does the blade only cut one way?

UPDATE on Friday 29 July 2011 OneVoice, an excellent Israeli/Palestinian conflict-resolution campaign group, has posted a report of one of the conference's sessions, including recordings of some speeches. 

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