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Rape a weapon of war in Syria: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2013 p 7. February 14, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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The Syrian civil war has sparked a refugee crisis marked by gender violence and sexual assaults, the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani reports.

In a 28 Jan 2013 statement published by the Anglican Communion News Service, Bishop Dawani said the “latest news coming out of Syria and the refugee camps is so deeply appalling and tragic.”

The bishop noted that U.N. estimated that 2.5 million peopled had been displaced by the fighting. “Many are women and children who are fleeing in fear from the ongoing sexual violence against them. The International Rescue Committee reports that those who finally make it into the refugee camps are also victimized.”

“As refugees, women and girls and boys remain vulnerable to multiple forms of gender-based violence, and unfortunately few cases are reported due to the feeling of shame or fear of retribution.”

The bishop said the “crisis requires urgent action.”

“As Christians, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide, we are called to respond to this crisis. Jesus is our example of how we are to live and Our Lord has specifically told us to ‘look after orphans and widows in their distress’.”

“We, as Christians, must work to be the bridge of reconciliation that can bring peace, with justice, to the Middle East. In this land, that all the Abrahamic faiths hold Holy, we co-exist, living side by side; however, we cannot be a silent witness to the brutal treatment of women and children. The ravages of war will leave, are leaving, deep scars that will take generations to heal.”

Bishop Dawani said it was also important to “change the archaic attitudes that dominate this region of the world. Generations of women know nothing more than continued suffering.”

“I have the deepest concern for all people, women and children, who are in Syria, and in the refugee camps in foreign lands,” the bishop said. “My prayers are ongoing for peace, with justice and reconciliation, that we can live in a world of non-violence, that we can hold our women and children as treasures and treat them with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve.”

Conservative applause for Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012 p 7. April 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Israel, The Episcopal Church.
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Conservative groups in the United States have applauded Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s rejection of divestment from Israel, saying they hope her words guide the churches’ debates on boycotting Israel.

In a 25 March 2012 speech in Los Angeles, Bishop Jefferts Schori stated “the Episcopal Church does not endorse divestment or boycott.”  She told those attending a “Middle East Peacemakers” luncheon that “a two-state solution with a dignified home for Palestinians and for Israelis” and for “deeper engagement, people of different traditions eating together, listening to each other’s stories” was the way forward for peace in the region.

“It’s not going to be helpful to endorse divestment or boycotts of Israel. It will only end in punishing Palestinians economically,” the presiding bishop said.

The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani told the luncheon that he hoped Anglicans would continue to show their solidarity with their compatriots in Israel and Palestine.  Building Christian institutions was a major goal of the diocese, he said, as “we are losing so many young families and young people who leave and look for a better future outside our land,” the bishop said.

Jerusalem must “remain open for all,” the Bishop said, adding, “We need your support to work for peace and justice.”

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, a pro-Israel lobbying group, applauded the Presiding Bishop’s comments.

“We are totally supportive of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori,” said the Rev. Bruce Chilton, Professor of Religion at Bard College and Fair Witness Executive Committee member.  “Fair Witness has long held that if the American Church can play a role in ending the occupation and bringing peace to this region it will be by helping to build up a viable sovereign Palestinian state through economic investment, while simultaneously avoiding boycott and divestment to allay the parties’ fear and distrust so they can find their way back to the negotiating table and a just two-state solution.”

“Prophetic Christian peacemaking is not a particularly easy venture,” he said, noting that “far too often we fall into the trap of simplistic blame casting, accusing either the Palestinians or the Israelis of not wanting peace and seeking to punish whichever party we perceive to be in the wrong.  But that approach only hardens leaders on both sides and makes it less likely that they will take the brave step of returning to the negotiating table and making the necessary compromises.”

“I am pleased and proud to see my church take such a highly principled and productive stand,” Dr Chilton said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Jerusalem residency row ends: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 30, 2011 p 6. October 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.
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Bishop Suheil Dawani

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Israel’s Ministry of the Interior has granted a residency permit for the Bishop in Jerusalem allowing the Rt Rev Suheil Dawani to live in Jerusalem. In an email to supporters, the bishop reported that on 26 September the Ministry approved his permit, ending over a year’s bureaucratic obfuscation and delay.

In August 2010, the Ministry declined to renew the bishop and his family’s residency papers, claiming the bishop had been engaged in fraudulent land deals on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Bishop Dawani and his family were ordered to leave the country, “immediately.”

The bishop denied the allegations, and after the Ministry declined to respond to the bishop’s letters, his lawyers initiated legal action in February, 2011.

International and domestic political pressure was quickly brought to bear. On 6 April, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem released a statement saying they “strongly support the religious freedom rights” of Bishop Dawani, and were “deeply concerned by the precedent of the attempt to deny residency in Jerusalem by the Israeli authorities to a leader of one of the Churches of this Holy City.”

On 28 March, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stated the British government was “very concerned” by the revocation of Bishop Dawani’s residency permit, adding that Foreign Secretary William Hague had “raised this with the Prime Minister of Israel.” Private representations had also been made on the bishop’s behalf by the US government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other Anglican leaders with the Prime Minister’s office.

No reason has been given for the government’s change of mind, the bishop reported. But he did want “to thank all of you, my friends and colleagues throughout the Anglican Episcopal Communion and the worldwide Christian community, for your continued support throughout this time. It has been deeply appreciated and most encouraging knowing that we have been kept in your thoughts and prayers as we awaited this most heartening outcome.”

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