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Break down walls in the Holy Land
How can Christians around the world provide more effective, practical support for the struggling Christian communities of the Holy Land? That was the question that dominated the second day of an international conference at Lambeth Palace in London on Tuesday, jointly organised by the Anglican and Catholic Churches in England and Wales. The meeting brought religious and political leaders from Europe and the United States together with Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives to discuss the pivotal role of the Christian communities throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran represented the Holy See at the conference – he told Philippa Hitchen he was greatly encouraged by the positive and hopeful voices of young Palestinians and Israelis attending the two day meeting…
"I must tell you I’ve been very positively surprised here by the interventions of young Israelis and Palestinians and I’ve admired their courage, balance and analysis of the situation. But we must give our Christian brothers and sisters the tools of survival, that is decent education, decent housing and a job. It’s important that at the end of this conference practical steps must be foreseen in order to encourage people to remain on the spot."
What else can you do to support these young people?
"At a diplomatic level, to be more outspoken about the situation of these communities because sometimes, especially where you have a country divided by a wall, separation begets ignorance, ignorance begets frustration and frustration begets violence. So it’s very important that the walls disappear, not only physically speaking, but psychologically and culturally speaking, in order that people meet and realise they are sons of the same God."
Could you or the Holy See in general be more outspoken on these issues?
"The Holy See is outspoken as regards this issue – this morning I was referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at Tel Aviv airport in May 2009 at the end of his pilgrimage and I think this is a fundamental speech to understand his position about the Middle East."
How do you hope to follow up on the positive commitments you’ve been hearing?
"I think we must arrange for our engagement in education, for example Bethlehem University - schools and universities and hospitals are the three structures through which we can help people to survive and to look to the future with much more confidence."
How important is this ecumenical initiative, do you think?
"I think it is a marvellous testimony to this climate, a very positive one, that we find in England, due I think to the personality of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is a remarkable man. We find also in the two last Archbishops of Westminster prelates who are perfectly aware that in today’s world we must announce Christ - in spite of our divisions - with one voice, because we are living in a society that is not built only without God but sometimes against God, so it’s important that Christians speak with one voice."