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Prophets needed in Middle East moral vacuum, says Dr Williams

02 November 2006

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has described the security fence erected by the Israelis as “a terrible symbol of the fear and despair that threaten everyone in this city and country, all the communities who share this Holy Land”.

Speaking at an ecumenical service at St George’s Anglican Cathedral on Tuesday, part of a pastoral visit to the diocese of Jerusalem, Dr Williams said that this was not the place to rehearse arguments about the fence. “It is enough to recognise that it is seen by many as one community decisively turning its back on another, despairing of anything that looks like a shared resolution, a shared future, a truly shared peace.”

The Archbishop spoke of the bodies of bombers and their victims as “still deeper signs of the refusal of a future, the choosing of darkness and mutual alienation”.

No citizenship
Apostles and prophets were needed to build a new humanity, said Dr Williams. “We must pray God to raise up such people; when there is a great vacuum of moral leadership, apostles and prophets come into their own.” Where there was no creative freedom to “discuss and modify how we live together”, and where there was “no law, no predictability and equity and openness, no guarantees against arbitrary violence”, there was no citizenship. Without this there was no building of the new world that Christ had made possible, he said.

Europe’s history had created a world in which it seemed that only in Israel was it possible for Jews to feel themselves fully citizens, fully in possession of their dignity and security, he suggested. “Nothing should compromise our shared commitment to this. But we also face a situation in which they and all of us must ask about those others who feel unable to exercise their civic and human dignities.

“What is needed is not only the refusal of violence and the continuing work of local and international peacemakers, but the steady effort to create citizenship in the sense I have described in the disadvantaged communities.”

Dr Williams warned that this could not happen overnight nor without the co-operation of more than one government.

The life and witness of the Christian Church in its spiritual fullness was essential to the region, said Dr Williams. He reminded the congregation that Churches in 1930s Germany had lost credibility by concentrating on their own problems, demanding their own freedom, and failing to work for the Jews of Germany. “A Church of apostles and prophets will have its eyes on whoever is most at risk in this present moment, Jews and Gentiles together, not on its own inner struggles,” he said. “I know that this is in many ways a reproach to my Church and to myself, as to others.”

Preaching in the Anglican Church of the Redeemer, Amman, in Jordan, on Monday, the Archbishop had earlier warned Christians against being in love with their own suffering.

He had said: “We have a history of oppression, displacement, cruelty from the hands of others, and our whole sense of who we are becomes bound up with this. . . Reading Christian history should tell us as clearly as we could wish that there is hardly any Church that has not been responsible at some point for another Church’s suffering.”

Dr Williams was in Jerusalem at the invitation of the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal. His six-day visit was to include churches and church and community projects in Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. He was also due to meet political, religious and community leaders, and those involved in peace initiatives in the region.

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