Salaam and grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed greetings from Jerusalem.
As I begin this message I want to first thank all who are supporting us at this time in Jerusalem, in aid of our schools, hospitals, and service institutions, together with all the support we offer throughout the church to those in need at this time of crisis locally. The support we receive is much appreciated, and helps to alleviate the pain of many in our Land.
This message also comes out as further escalation in international affairs begins with the war in Iraq today. With increasing uncertainty with regard to the future, I want first and foremost to thank all who have been relentlessly working for peace, and firmly standing against the use of arms. I want to say thank you for all church people and churches around the world who have been concerned with the prophetic message and calling of the church to pose the question of Christ before all who claim power and order in the world. We live at a time when many who claim to be Christians are Christ-less Christians. I continue to believe that whoever thinks that they can bring about a new world order with the power of the gun will be defeated. Whoever said that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" poses this question of Christ, who becomes the victim of the powerful. True it is that we are to reach out to those who are in need. However, those in need these days are those who think they know the truth. They are in need of facing the poor Christ, who reminds them of their poverty.
The war has begun, and we will begin counting the dead, the victims, and the injured. The aggressor bears the responsibility of those innocent lives. Is it not enough that Iraq has lost 1.7 Million children over the last 10 years, over the use of Uranium, and the spread of leukaemia? I call upon you to remember the victims, who will be unnamed.
For us here it seems that the party that is benefiting from this conflict is Israel. Israel has secured US$10 billion as part of a massive war budget. US$1 billion of this will be in military aid, to buy more bulldozers, and more weapons. The rest will be for what they claim to compensate Israel's loss, which we believe will be used to crush the hope in a Palestinian State by adding to Jewish Settlements in the Occupied West Band and Gaza. This is not to mention the cost of the whole operation, which is estimated earlier by Pentagon at close to US$95 billion.
On the other hand, the Palestinian side is going to suffer as much as the Iraqis, if not more. That has been the case in the past, and it is going to be the case again. We already have lost 2000 people. Tens of thousands have been injured, with about 15% handicapped as a result. Thousands of homes have been demolished, and tens of thousands of trees uprooted. Among those whose lives have been claimed in recent days is an American activist: Rachel Corrie from Olympia. She seems to have been murdered with clod blood according to her colleagues who work with the International Solidarity Movement, and who were present at the time of her killing. Eyewitnesses say that there is no way she could not have been seen by the soldiers in their elevated cabin, when she was 10-20 metres away. Sadly, with all that suffering, and all these deaths and losses, we hear of no compensation to the Palestinians.
The Church in Jerusalem will continue to work and fulfil its calling in the midst of all this chaos. We remain where we are, trying to cope with the situation, through our hospitals, schools and other services. We call upon our people to open themselves in prayers to the mercy of God, and like Christ be firm and courageous even in their silence before those who torment the body. Our presence will have to be preserved, and our calling accomplished. We cannot flee, we cannot claim neutrality. Many do that, but that is not the way of Christ. It is the way of Pilate. May God deliver us from those temptations.
It is always good to know that we are upheld by the prayers of the Church around the world, and we ask you to be in touch with us, in as much as we ask you to be at prayer for the people of Iraq, for the people of Palestine, and all who suffer in the world.
Know that this comes with my prayer, and best wishes for a blessed Lent.
+The Rt Revd Riah Abu El-Assal
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem