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Fury over Dr. Williams’ Palestine remarks: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2011 p 6. July 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come under sharp criticism from Palestinian activists, who have accused Dr. Rowan Williams of being an ill-informed right-winger bent on “demonizing Islam” and supporting the Israeli government.

However, a spokesman for Dr. Williams tells The Church of England Newspaper that Kairos Palestine had improperly construed the archbishop’s remarks about the plight of Christians across the Middle East to be an endorsement of Israeli government policies.

In a June 14 interview with the BBC Radio 4 programme World At One, Dr. Williams noted that life for some Middle East Christians was “becoming unsustainable.”

There was a “hemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land,” the archbishop said, adding that the “fact that Bethlehem, a majority Christian city just a couple of decades ago, is now very definitely a place where Christians are a marginalized minority.”

“It’s not ethnic cleansing exactly because it’s been far less deliberate than that I think,” Dr. Williams said.

“What we’ve seen though is a kind of Newtonian passing on of energy or force from one body to another so that some Muslim populations in the West Bank, under pressure, move away from certain areas like Hebron, move into other areas like Bethlehem. And there’s nowhere much else for Christian populations to go except away from Palestine,” the archbishop told the BBC.

On June 18, Mr. Rifat Odeh Kassis, the coordinator for Kairos Palestine wrote to Dr. Williams stating his remarks on Muslim extremism as the “the greatest threat facing Christians in Palestine and the primary reason for our emigration” were “inaccurate and erroneous.”

He added the archbishop’s “statements about Bethlehem are particularly faulty and offensive especially when you say that the movement of Muslims into the Bethlehem area, where space is limited, is forcing Christians to leave.”

“Equally shocking,” Mr. Kassis said, was Dr. Williams’ silence on Israeli actions that Kairos Palestine believed were one of the “major reasons that push not only Christians to emigrate, but also many other Palestinians.”

Kairos Palestine was disappointed that Dr. Williams did not speak with a “different voice than the one in mass media and other right wing political parties, which exploit our sufferings to fuel some Islamophobic tendencies and negative images about Islam.”

No stranger to the Middle East’s political fracas, Kairos Palestine was formed by a group of Palestinian clergy in 2004.  According to the Jerusalem-based think tank NGO Monitor, Kairos “advocates a supersessionist theology, exploits related themes to demonize Israel, denies the Jewish historical connection to Israel, and ignores the extreme harassment and violence committed by Palestinians against Christians.”

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace told CEN Kairos’ concerns were overblown.   “This is partly a fall out from a misquote on the BBC website,” he said.

The spokesman noted that on June 14 the BBC’s website stated:  “Dr Rowan Williams said there was a ‘haemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land’ because of violent extremism, and in Bethlehem they were now a ‘marginalised minority’.”

The following day, the BBC rewrote the introduction to the story.  The introduction to the link to the interview now read: “Dr Rowan Williams said there was a ‘haemorrhaging of Christian populations from the Holy Land’, violent extremism driving Christians from Egypt, and in Bethlehem they were now a ‘marginalised minority’.”


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[…] touching on the main objections of Kairos and Sabeel to the contents of Williams’ interview (“Fury over Dr Williams’ Palestine remarks,” The Church of England Newspaper, 1 […]

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