Sunday, May 10, 2009

One small step in the Holy Land

The Pope's in Jordan, and that's newsworthy enough. His next stop, Jerusalem. On the BBC Sunday programme this morning I heard an encouraging news report, which re-connected me with the last week of my stay in Jerusalem during Advent 2000. Sabeel hosted an iftar (ramadhan post sunset breakfast meal), at which Christian and Muslim leaders with pastoral responsiblities for the churches and mosques of the Old City, sat down at table and ate together for the first time ever - I believe. In that same month the top regional Jewish Christian and Muslim leaders met in Alexandria, Egypt for a first ever conference. This led to an unprecedented declaration about the incompaitbility of violent resolution of conflict with the teachings of the three faiths. Words are one thing, practical outcomes are another, and effective timetables even fewer.

Eight and a half years since then, Israel now has a council of three faith community leaders who had special responsibilities for the sites that are sacred to some or all of them, a meeting in whch problems of responsibility, ownership, security, and visitor care can be addressed. This is a real break through in recognising that the needs of each has an impact on the others, and expresses a desire to do something about common concerns. No doubt progress will continue to be slow. We'd all like a miraculous win-win resolution of all the Holy Land's problems. A commitment to meet and share practical issues, is as likley to be bureacratic as it is diplomatic. But it's in keeping such commitments that can lead to effective and peaceful transformation.

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