Security Fence Having an Opposite Effect, Say Christian Leaders

Warn That Barrier Is Causing a Sense of Alienation

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JERUSALEM, AUG. 28, 2003 ( The security fence separating Israel and the Palestinian Territories is posing an obstacle to the «road map» for peace in the Holy Land, warn Christian leaders here.

«For both nations, the fencing will cause a feeling of isolation,» they said in a joint statement signed on Tuesday and issued today.

The leaders manifest their position vis-à-vis the 350-kilometer-long cement and barbed-wire barrier, now about a third completed, which the Israeli government is building to keep out terrorists.

«While the ‘road map’ for peace can bring positive results, we believe, instead, that the wall of separation represents a serious obstacle,» the Christian leaders explain in their document.

«For many Palestinians, the wall means a privation of land (10% more than the 1967 occupation), of means of sustenance, of sovereignty, and of family ties,» the document continues. «The occupation remains the root of the conflict and of the continuing suffering in the Holy Land.»

The declaration is endorsed by Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah; Armenian-Orthodox Patriarch Torkom II; the Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Giovanni Battistelli; the Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Orthodox archbishops of Jerusalem; the Anglican and Lutheran archbishops; the Greek-Catholic exarch; and the Syrian Catholic bishop.

The text also expresses their serious concern over the proposal to erect a fence at Bethlehem, which «for us Christians is the place of birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.»

«The consequences would be devastating for the Christian community, including the psychological impact it would have on everyday life,» it said. «The community would be isolated, provoking a limitation to access to the land, and to freedom of movement. Pilgrimages would be discouraged.»

The religious leaders appealed «to the authorities of both sides and all the populations of the world that love peace» to join in the efforts to halt the construction of the wall, which represents «an impediment to a lasting and global peace.»

Leaders of all Christian churches present in Jerusalem have called for a vigil of prayer for peace, to be held in Bethlehem’s Benedictine Emmanuel Monastery, on Aug. 30, beginning at 10 p.m.

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