Hopes for Peace Are Set on the Post-Sharon Era

Father Raed Abusahlia Comments on U.S. Mediation in Mideast

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JERUSALEM, MARCH 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Christians in the Holy Land hope that the current U.S. mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be fruitful, although they believe the results will not come during Ariel Sharon´s government.

Father Raed Abusahlia of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed this conviction in a message to ZENIT, in which he also comments on Wednesday´s meeting between Patriarch Michel Sabbah and Dr. George Carey, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury.

Father Abusahlia said that people in the Holy Land are talking about opportunities for a cease-fire, following the intervention of General Anthony Zinni, the U.S. envoy, and the visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

«I am optimistic because there is a real chance, but I am afraid that this will take a long time because they will get lost in tiny unessential details instead of dealing vigorously with the main issues of ending occupation and reaching a final and comprehensive peace agreement,» Father Abusahlia explained.

«This will be impossible with the Sharon government,» he insisted. «Therefore, we still have to wait until a new generation comes to power, hoping that it will be different. There are signs of hope.»

Referring to the meeting between Dr. Carey and the Latin patriarch, the priest said: «I am certain that religion will play a positive and reconciling role in this region where all the three monotheistic religions were born.»

Father Abusahlia said he had just returned from a pastoral visit to a small parish near Jifna, where he celebrated the feast of St. Joseph.

«We experienced the difficulties of living here, as each village is almost completely closed off from neighboring villages and cities, and thus becomes a giant prison for the people,» he said.

«The new policy of the Israeli army is to remove the soldiers from most of the checkpoints,» the priest continued. «Instead, all of the entrances and exits of each village are blocked by huge cement blocks or deep trenches dug across the roads. This new policy greatly complicates freedom of movement and increases the danger of soldiers accidentally shooting walkers from their hidden high watch points in the hills.»

The above danger has become «a serious concern if one has to travel after sunset, as we did today,» Father Abusahlia added. «We risk being stopped by soldiers hidden in tanks in the middle of the road. They are afraid to stand guard at a checkpoint because of the danger of ambush. Remaining in their tanks is a new measure for their safety. They apparently are not concerned about our safety.»

«At a checkpoint, we risk our lives if we make the wrong move because all the guns are pointed at us while they check our documents and our car. We passed safely tonight, but our dear friend Dr. Sari Nusseibah´s car was shot at Qalandia checkpoint, but thank God he was not harmed,» the priest exclaimed.

«Many innocent people have been killed in cold blood because they simply had to pass through the daily humiliation of these checkpoints,» Father Abusahlia added.

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