United Church Delegation Calls for an End to Palestinian Embargo



    TORONTO, April 24 /CNW/ - In a letter sent this week to Prime Minister
Stephen Harper, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada is urging the
Canadian government to "urgently and immediately resume financial support to
the Palestinian Unity Government so that the Palestinian people can live the
life of dignity to which they are entitled."
    "The international financial boycott of the Palestinian Authority has
resulted in further crippling existing economic conditions for Palestinians,"
writes the Moderator, the Right Rev. David Giuliano.
    Giuliano recently returned to Canada following a 10-day visit to the
Middle East as part of a six-person delegation who had travelled to Israel and
Palestine, March 25 to April 3. The purpose of the trip was to visit the Heads
of Churches in Jerusalem, and to meet with other Christian, Jewish, and Muslim
partners with whom the United Church has worked ecumenically for over two
decades.
    "We listened as they talked of the suffering endured by all peoples in
the region but especially by Palestinians as occupied people now also living
under international economic sanctions," says Giuliano.
    Giuliano adds that the creation of the Palestinian Unity Government and
the Saudi Initiative are extremely positive steps toward peace that should be
fully supported and encouraged by the international community.
    "The people of Palestine and Israel need our full support in order not to
lose the hope of peace," writes Giuliano.
    The United Church delegation's visit to the Middle East coincided with
high holy days for the peoples of the three main faith traditions living in
the region, which emphasized the deep connection and meaning this land holds
for both Palestinians and Israelis.
    Nora Sanders, General Secretary of the General Council of The United
Church of Canada, was another member of the delegation.
    "We are inspired by the work of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish partners
working for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis," says Sanders.
"People of all three faiths are modelling the kind of relationships through
which trust is developed and concrete steps toward peace can be achieved."
    Since August 2003, The United Church of Canada has called for a just
resolution to the conflict that will require an end to violence by both sides;
the dismantling and withdrawal of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank
and East Jerusalem; respect for human rights and international law; and a
secure, economically viable, and sovereign Israeli state living in peace, side
by side with a secure, economically viable, and sovereign Palestinian state.
    "We have seen for ourselves the effects of the ongoing occupation on the
everyday lives of Palestinians," said Giuliano. "The military checkpoints, the
house demolitions, bypass roads, movement restrictions, permits, and the
Separation Wall have created enormous suffering and despair."
    "We have also heard about the sufferings endured by Israelis and
Palestinians because of living in fear and mistrust," adds Giuliano.
    He says that the delegation had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust
history museum Yad Vashem, and returned with a more profound understanding of
the importance of Israel to the Jewish people around the world. "We reaffirm
our support of Israel's right to exist within internationally recognized
borders," says Giuliano.
    Sanders describes the devastating effects of the Separation Wall and the
restrictions that affect the daily lives of Palestinians. "The wall doesn't
just divide Palestinians from Israelis, but in places it separates
Palestinians from Palestinians," comments Sanders. "The economic
deterioration, the separation of families, and the lack of access to jobs,
schools, hospitals, and places of worship affect the basic human rights of
these people."
    She also expressed deep concern for the needs of Israelis. "We heard from
Israelis about the deep sense of fear with which they live. We acknowledge the
right of Israelis to ensure their own security, which is inextricably linked
with that of the Palestinians. The Palestinians are paying an enormous price
for Israel's security, at the expense of their own security and human rights.
This is only leading to deepening fear, mistrust, and further insecurity for
Israelis, as well as for Palestinians," Sanders says.
    The delegation heard from partners in the region that a just resolution
of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is needed urgently, as the
implications for peace in the whole region and the rest of the world depend
upon it.
    Wendy Gichuru, Program Coordinator for the church's partner relationships
in Palestine and Israel, expressed optimism about the hopeful signals emerging
from the Palestinian Unity Government and the Saudi Initiative that offer an
opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful
negotiations.
    "These initiatives are positive steps toward resolving the conflict in a
just, peaceful, non-violent way. We pray that there will be political will on
both sides for a just peace to be realized," says Gichuru.
    Other members of the delegation included the Rev. Jeanette Liberty-Duns,
Chair of the Peace Policy Task Group; Allan Seal, a member of the Executive of
the General Council; and Omega Bula, Executive Minister of the Justice, Global
and Ecumenical Relations Unit.





For further information:

For further information: Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The
United Church of Canada, (416) 231-7680 ext. 2016 (business), (416) 885-7478
(cell), (416) 766-0057 (home)

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