From the Website Vatican ( POPE )
Religious leaders in the Holy Land refuse to be discouraged by the current climate of pessimism that shrouds the Middle East peace process. Though they admit there are very real obstacles to overcoming hostilities, they believe that as the spiritual leaders of the communities involved, they can make a difference. It’s a question, they say, of the political will to involve them in dialogue:
“I hope the voice of the Council will be heard more, even on a political level. We try to address both the Israeli and Palestinians. Right now, we don’t have great links with the authorities mainly in Israel. But I do think they need to listen to us, we are working for peace. We hope we can work more together in the future. The Palestinian Authority are very supportive and encouraging. The situation is far from hopeful at the moment but this just means that we have to work even harder” says the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, who is a member of the Israeli Council of Religious leaders who met Thursday morning with the Pope.
He says. “This Council was founded four years ago in Jerusalem. It is composed of Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives. Of course the five heads of the Churches, the Muslims and the Jewish Rabbinate, we meet every other month and recently we have been working on a peace education curriculum, which we hope will be accepted in both Israeli and Palestinian schools.
I believe that peace will start only from the grass roots, the people. I mean, we must teach our children how to live together and respect each other. There is a great ignorance in the lives of the children and young people. They don’t know each other, they don’t know their neighbours and I believe that this is the our most important task for future generations
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s full interview with Archbishop Dawani: 00:05:39:02
Below the full text of the Statement of the Council of Religious Leaders in Israel
On the occasion of meeting H.H. Pope Benedict XVI, this tenth day of November 2011, we the religious leaders in the State of Israel affirm our belief in the Creator of the Universe who directs His world with loving kindness and compassion and who calls upon us human beings to live with one another in peace and dignity.
The Council of Religious Leaders express gratitude to His Holiness for this outstanding meeting, and holds in esteem His activity to bring hearts together and to bring peace throughout the world.
First and foremost, we reiterate our commitment to the sanctity of human life and reject all violence, especially when this is done in the name of religion - a desecration of the sacred.
In order to maintain peace and mutual respect among the different religious communities in our State, we must educate our children and congregations accordingly and prevent any offense against the feelings or beliefs of others.
We inherited the Holy Sites from our forebears, and we are required to preserve their religious sanctity and cultural significance. We do this, also in the name of Israeli Law related to the protection of the Holy Sites. The unity and special character of the Holy Sites must be protected from all violence and desecration. It is the responsibility of the religious leaders to strengthen this approach and to call on their communities to ensure that the Holy Sites of other religious communities are not harmed.
In accordance with the above, and in keeping with the commandments and prohibitions of each respective religion, free access for believers to their respective holy sites must be provided, and the empowered civil authorities must guarantee this.
Our religious heritages teach us that peace, doing justice, and righteousness are the commandments of the Holy One Blessed Be He, and as religious leaders, we have a special duty to be attentive to the cry of the weak in our midst and to work together for a more just and fair society.
We reiterate our commitment to do everything in our power to fulfill this important charge, especially in the Holy Land, which is dear to us all.
Offering our prayer heavenwards, we give thanks to the Creator, who has enabled us to come together this day in order to work together to bring a blessing for all.