Middle East Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan has urged Palestinians to "use brains, sanity, dialogue and non-violence and not arms to deal with differences".
Speaking at a conference called by non-governmental organizations and other agencies, Younan encouraged "democratic, non-violent strategies as the only way to achieve Palestinian goals of an end to the 40-year military occupation and the creation of an independent, viable state living side by side with Israel".
The conference began with speeches by the Islamic Chief Judge in territories under the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tamimi and Younan, who heads the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Bishop Younan told the group that recent infighting between Palestinians "is a sin and a shame on our people" and urged politicians and other leaders to listen to both those who agree with them, to the silent majority and to the voice of the opposition.
This, he said, was the only way to develop a "peaceful, non-violent strategy for justice and to build a common vision of a modern, civil, democratic society". He also urged the victims of the fighting to forgive and not to allow hatred and vengeance to overcome them.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Rev Ishmael Noko, welcomed the 8 February agreement for a Palestinian unity government by Hamas and Fatah groups. Bishop Younan is a vice-president of the LWF.
In a statement on 14 February 2007, Noko commended the parties' flexibility in reaching "this essential compromise". He stressed that the Palestinian unity government to be established under the agreement "must be committed, in practice as well as in theory, to the realisation of a two-State solution to the longstanding crisis in the Middle East".
Its main and immediate priority "must be to pursue resumption of genuine negotiations with the State of Israel for the achievement of this end." Noko noted the essential role of the region's religious communities in ensuring the agreement's implementation with strong interfaith encouragement and support.
The Lutheran World Federation general secretary reminded the international community of its urgent responsibility to support the signed agreement, saying it has the task "to sustain hope in the Holy Land, for the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, and indeed for the sake of the whole world"
With acknowledgments to Ecumenical News International (ENI) - www.eni.ch