THE Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to criticism that he
ignored Palestinian Christians during a five-day visit to the Holy
News, 28 June).
Press reports last week suggested that some Palestinian
Christians were angry that, during a visit to Israel and the
Occupied Palestinian Territories, Archbishop Welby did not visit
Nazareth or Bethlehem. He did, however, meet Palestinian Christians
in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Writing in the Church
Times today, Archbishop Welby says: "In the Holy Land, it
is impossible to say anything without treading on toes, or to go
anywhere without some people feeling that you should not have, or
that somewhere else was more important."
Archbishop Welby argues that it would be "absurd to imagine that
there are simple solutions to the total absence of trust that
prevents progress towards peace. . . Both sides are eloquent about
the reasons for the fear and insecurity. Going through checkpoints
and hearing of the indignities suffered daily by many Palestinians
explains much. So does visiting Yad Vashem, or hearing from those
who have endured rocket fire."
Peter Rand, vice-chairman of Friends of the Holy Land, an
ecumenical charity that supports Christians in the Holy Land, said
last week that Archbishop Welby had "clearly demonstrated his
concern for Palestinian Christians". peaking in the Peace Garden
at St George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, on Wednesday evening of last
week, Archbishop Welby called for "full access" to the holy sites
of Jerusalem, and spoke of the need for "peace with justice and
security" in the Middle East.
In an apparent reference to the security wall, he said: "It is
essential that Jerusalem remains an open city, with full access to
the religious sites which are holy to three faiths. . . Where
people are left out, there will be no security, no justice, no
During his visit to Jerusalem, Archbishop Welby prayed at the
Western Wall, reading Psalm 15 from his personal prayer-book. He
visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock,
a Muslim shrine. He also met the President of Israel, Shimon Peres,
at his residence in Jerusalem.
Travelling from Jerusalem to Ramallah, on Thursday of last week,
Archbishop Welby passed through the Qalandiya checkpoint, and spoke
with human-rights observers from the Ecumenical Accompaniment
Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Archbishop Welby said
later that he had been struck by "the frequent indignities that are
suffered by people who deserve only dignity and respect, like all
human beings should have".
Archbishop Welby said earlier this year that he should have
voted against a General Synod motion that endorsed EAPPI, on which
he abstained (
News, 28 March,
13 July 2012).
On Tuesday of last week, Archbishop Welby met the Foreign
Minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh, in Amman, the Jordanian