Building human bridges of hope

By Simon Barrow
August 20, 2010

An important way to challenge the separation wall in Israel is to build as many human bridges across it as possible, Archbishop Elias Chacour says.

He was talking at St John's Church in Edinburgh as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which I attended this afternoon.

Israel and its allies have talked of peace but reaped war, and Palestinians have talked justice but reaped misery, the Melkite church leader said.

"We have all gone against the logical order of things... the prophets say that if you want peace and security you must work for justice with integrity."

What has happened instead, he suggested, is that those who see violence as a solution have furthered what they call peace and justice as sectarian pursuits, rather than seeing them as pointing towards "forgiveness, sharing and concessions to win friendship."

Israel-Palestine "is being sacrificed on the altar of war", Chacour declared. Global change has to be rooted in rebuilding relationships and common action at the local level, he said - declining to be drawn directly into an often fractious debate about the extent to which boycotts and sanctions can play a role in changing Israeli policy in the region.

For some working for Palestinian rights, Chacour is "not political enough", though his denunciation of the "ethnic cleansing" of his people and the moral offence of occupation is strong enough.

He said that he sees his vocation, however, not as that of a politician but of a priest, building "outposts of the future in the trauma of the present", as one commentator put it.

It was a salutary reminder that in the midst of the political challenges, there are human and spiritual ones we sometimes do not hear.

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