Jerusalem (ENI). More than 140 international Christian leaders signed a joint declaration on Israel's 60th anniversary calling for a just peace between Israeli and Palestinians. The declaration was released to the media to coincide with Israel's celebration of the anniversary on 8 May.
"We…urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that 'will produce lasting peace and security'," they said, quoting from the prophet Isaiah (32:17) in the Bible.
The Christian leaders called on all those working for peace to commit themselves to a "courageous settlement" which would honour both peoples' "shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a peace leader from Northern Ireland's Roman Catholic community, both of whom are Nobel Peace Prize laureates, as well as the leader of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, are among the signatories of the declaration.
On 14 May 1948 after the horrors of the Holocaust in which some 6 million Jews were exterminated, the Jews of British-mandated Palestine declared their independence in accordance with a United Nations partition plan for the territory which the Arabs rejected. Immediately following the British withdrawal from the area, Israel's Arab neighbours attacked the fledgling country in a war in which about 400 Arab villages were destroyed and which left 700 000 local Arab residents as refugees.
Pastors, priests, authors and professors from across denominational lines including Presbyterians, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Mennonites and Pentecostal Christians signed the declaration, which was passed via the Internet and by word of mouth. The signatories hail from Britain, Ireland, France, the United States, Australia, South Africa, and Canada.
The declaration was a private initiative by British journalist Ben White and Egyptian-German journalist Philip Rizk.
While the anniversary will be marked joyfully by Israelis and Jews worldwide celebrating their ability to overcome the power of hatred embodied in the Nazi Holocaust, which took place at the time of the 1939-1945 Second World War, it is also a day of mourning for Palestinians commemorating their uprooting from their homes in 1948, noted the statement.
"To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to 'seek peace and pursue it'," the Christian leaders said in the statement, quoting from the Book of Psalms, 34:14.
"To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future," the declaration added. "Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness."
Israeli official anniversary ceremonies began on the eve of 8 May, Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar. Palestinians were to mark the date, which they call their Yom Al-Nakba or The Day of the Catastrophe, on 15 May, the day after independence was declared.
The Christians leaders said they "acknowledge with sorrow" that over the past 60 years many in the Church worldwide have not extended similar support and empathy to the Palestinians as they have to Israel.
Today 20 percent of Israel's 7 million people are Arabs, and two percent of the country's