Mideast Church Leaders Pleading for Peace
13 Sign Message Urging Change of Course


JERUSALEM, JAN. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The leaders of churches in the Middle East are urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table.

Thirteen church leaders, including the Custos of the Holy Land, sent a message to ZENIT on Friday: "Concerned at the present situation in the Palestinian Territories, we feel we must voice our anxiety for all our people -- Christian and Muslim alike -- at the deteriorating relations between Fatah and Hamas leaders and the armed forces."

The leaders urge Palestinians to foster the genuine unity of their people and to ban weapons from the streets.

The Christian leaders of Jerusalem alert that recent "occurrences can only bring a civil war nearer," the outcome of which "would be so drastic that it will obscure the real priorities of the whole Palestinian issue."

The leaders say there is an obligation to change course, especially for the sake of the children and young people who deserve a better future.

"Bloodshed and violence will not bring peace; it will only further destroy family life and further endanger the economy of our land," they say.

The message states: "The time has come to call for intense prayer to Almighty God for peace and an opportunity for calm in order that all partiers can consider carefully the various issues at stake."

Neighbors

"Instead of hurling accusations at each other, we would urge everyone to pray for their neighbors in the widest possible sense," the leaders add. "It is surely time to unite rather than collide. Fighting and kidnapping opponents will not bring down the wall of separation or end the embargo on the Palestinian people.

"The time has come for an all-out effort to unite our people and so concentrate on working for independence together, with the opportunity for all people of this Holy Land -- Christian, Muslim and Jew -- to know security and peace."

The patriarchs and leaders of the local Churches in Jerusalem express their readiness to play their part in ending the present situation as mediators or in whatever role is deemed necessary.

"It is vital to bring a real sense of unity in government; to unite the security forces; remove arms from our streets and encourage the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table," they conclude.

The message bears the following signatures:

-- Patriarch Theolophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
-- Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarchate
-- Patriarch Torkom II, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
-- Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land

-- Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate
-- Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
-- Abune Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
-- Archbishop Paul Nabil Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

-- Bishop Riah Abu Al-Assal, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
-- Bishop Mounib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
-- Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
-- Bishop George Bakar, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
-- Father Raphael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
ZE07011503