FIFTY years after the Six-Day War that divided the two nations, a negotiated political settlement in the Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine is “as distant as ever”, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, has said.
Bishop Chessun was reflecting on the annual communiqué issued by the Vatican-led Holy Land Co-ordination Group — of 11 Roman Catholic Bishops in Europe — after their annual visit to Israel and Palestine last week.
The communiqué reads: “Our Co-ordination has called for justice and peace every year since 1998, yet the suffering continues. So this call must get louder. As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness, and action.”
It also opposes the construction of settlements; and it pledges to provide aid to the people of Gaza; to encourage non-violent resistance; to promote a two-state solution; and to help the Church, its agencies, volunteers, and NGOs on the ground.
“Sadly, this visit has brought home the stark reality that, 50 years on from the 1967 war, the prospects for a negotiated settlement look as distant as ever, while the costs of maintaining the status quo look alarmingly prohibitive to both sides,” Bishop Chessun said.
“Now is the time, before the creation of new facts on the ground finally close the window of opportunity on a two-state solution, for both Palestinians and Israelis to recommit to working towards a negotiated political settlement that provides security for Israelis, justice for Palestinians, and peace for all.”
The visit to the Holy Land was led by the chairman of the Co-ordination, Bishop Declan Lang, of the RC diocese of Clifton. Bishop Chessun is the only C of E bishop in the group. He said: “This visit, coinciding with the Week [of Prayer] for Christian Unity, has been a humbling occasion to meet and pray with Christians in both Israel and Palestine, and to learn more as to what it means to be Church in this Holy Land.”