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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Letter of encouragement to the UN Secretary-General for his initiative for a resumption of negotiations

10 October 2000

Letter to H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, 10 October 2000.

Mr Secretary-General,

I write to commend you for your decision to intervene personally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to assure you of the prayers of the churches joined in the World Council of Churches as you meet with the respective leaders.

We welcome Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) and its call for the immediate cessation of violence and all further acts of provocation. In adopting this resolution the Security Council speaks for the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the world. We share the call for the immediate resumption of negotiations and the need expressed for a 'speedy and objective inquiry into the tragic events of the last few days with the aim of preventing their repetition' to which reference is made in the resolution.

The roots of the present violence lie deep in the history of the conflictive relationship between Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular since the creation of the State of Israel, in the injustice done to the Palestinian people, and in the persistent refusal of Israel to abide by the terms of repeated demands of redress issued by the Security Council and the UN General Assembly over the past half century. History bears witness to the truth that so long as this underlying injustice persists there can be neither peace nor security for either Israel or Palestine.

Both sides have suffered from this renewed violent confrontation. But once again it is the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian youth, who pay by far the greater price in God-given life as a result of the disproportionate use of armed force by Israel.

We pray that Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat and all those caught up in the terrible, rising spiral of violence will respond to your initiative and to the appeals of governments and peoples around the world by stepping back from the brink before they and the region as a whole are cast again into the abyss of full-scale war.

This is not a time for ultimatums or threats of more violent acts of retribution, but the hour to join together in declaring a truce and days of public mourning for the victims of the violence on all sides.

As the Security Council has noted, this last wave of violent confrontation was set off by a provocative act in Jerusalem. This defies the shared belief of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike that Jerusalem is a Holy City that God intended to be a haven of peace, the symbol of harmony among the nations. As the heads of the churches in Jerusalem reminded us all on the eve of this outbreak, the Psalmist wrote, 'The Lord will write a list of the peoples and include them all as citizens of Jerusalem.' (Ps 87.6)

Ten days ago the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches adopted a Resolution on Jerusalem Final Status Negotiations which reiterated our firm belief 'that Jerusalem can be a source of peace, stability and coexistence rather than of division and conflict that destroy human dignity and hope'.

The paper prepared as background for that action said that, if approached the right way, Jerusalem could be the reservoir of spiritual as well as the political refreshment that would nurture peace instead of being a poisoned well that threatens it. Jerusalem should be the engine for peace, a source of stability and coexistence, rather than a casual inheritor of the peace process, or worse: a continuing source of division and conflict.

We pray that all concerned will now draw on this source of peace and harmony, recalling the words of Christ, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs shall be called people of God." (Mt. 5:9)

                                                                                                                Respectfully yours,

                                                                                                                                               Konrad Raiser
                                                                                                                                               General Secretary