A high-level consultation of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders hosted by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey at Lambeth Palace in London has issued a 10-point plan to deal with the continuing conflict in the Middle East.
The two-day consultation was a follow-up to a historic meeting last January that produced the Alexandria Declaration, a breakthrough agreement signed by the religious leaders. The new plan, announced October 25, takes a sober look at the daunting task of peace and reconciliation in one of the most troubling confrontations in the world.
Among the provisions of the plan is a commitment to 'maintain the relationship and channels of communication' developed since the Alexandria Declaration, to 'establish an inter-religious council for Jerusalem and the Holy sites,' and to 'sustain the existing close working relationships with the political leadership of both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority.'
On the issue of violence, the plan seeks 'to engage with those religious leaders who are seen to be instruments in the perpetuation of violence' and establish a program of education that 'will foster and encourage an environment of tolerance and eventual reconciliation.'
'We have built much on that first meeting,' said Carey in a statement. 'We have had frank exchanges and there is no shrinking from the difficult issues that confront us all in this conflict. It is painful sometimes to have to confront the hostility and the anger caused by a situation in which there is right on many sides and in which the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth.'
The Alexandria Declaration celebrates the respect for the three major religions of the area, according to Carey, 'underscoring its rejection of violence, incitement to hatred and misrepresentation, cherishing its call for a just, secure and durable solution for the Holy Land, support for a religiously sanctioned cease-fire and promoting its ambition to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.'
Carey said that participants recognized 'the significant obstacles presented by the continuing occupation and the on-going violence. We acknowledge the fear of communities that there will never be open acceptance by the other of their right to be present in the Holy Land and believe that all have a duty to combat the mistrust that this generates.'
It is very important, Carey added, to recognize 'the fundamental importance of ensuring that what we say of one another is free from invective and rhetoric and is not cast in stereotypes or generalizations. We need also to ensure that what is passed on to the next generation is not wrapped in fear and mistrust.'
The three principal organizers of the Alexandria meeting--Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Sheikh Tlala Seder and Rabbi Michael Melchior--were given a Peace Prize before the consultation began in recognition of their contributions.
The text of the plan is available on the Anglican Communion web site at www.anglicancommunion.org/acns.