Archbishop Elias Chacour, who is both a Palestinian and a citizen of Israel, has told a large gathering in Edinburgh that a just and peaceful future in Israel and Palestine depends upon education.
The average age in the area he lives, said the Archbishop, is 14 years, and many young people have been deeply scarred and shaped by the history of occupation and eviction. Transformation of lives and understanding is vital, he suggested.
Chacour is the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Noted for his efforts to promote reconciliation, he is the author of two books about the experience of Palestinian people living in present-day Israel - including the best-seller Blood Brothers, which broke boundaries in the UK by being published by a major evangelical company.
The archbishop said that his strong commitment to nonviolence in the face of what to many appears to be an intractable conflict was something flowing naturally "first of all from my commitment to Jesus Christ... and also to the dignity of my people."
"I am an inferior citizen", he declared, referring to the second class status of Arabs in Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state. The land, he said, should be for the nourishment of all.
In the 1980s, Chacour started a small school building. Now the co-educational Mar Elias Educational Institutions enroll 4,500 students, including pupils from Muslim, Christian and Druze backgrounds.
Seeing children as "our present and our future", the archbishop said his schools were Christian in character but open to everyone.
Echoing the theme of a major lecture he is due to give at St Mary's Catholic Cathedral this evening, Archbishop Chacour described "the promised land" as more "a land of promises" - many of them broken by religiously grounded communities whose ethic and practice is supposed to be rooted in the Golden Rule, "do as you would be done by".
At St John's Episcopal (Anglican) Church for a lunchtime talk on 20 August, attended by several hundred people, the archbishop was engaged in a lively and passionate conversation by the Rev Kathy Galloway, head of Christian Aid in Scotland, and former leader of the Iona Community.
The challenge, he said, referring back to Jesus' Beatitudes (blessings on those at the margins of society), is not to remain piously aloof, but "to get our hands dirty in working for justice and peace for both Palestinians and Jews."
This must include building relationships and acts solidarity - for instance to those whose homes are being destroyed - Chacour declared.
More on Elias Chacour from Ekklesia: http://www.books.ekklesia.co.uk/search/node/chacour