Archbishop of Wales, Most Rev Dr Rowan Williams, has used his advent message this year to call for a "prayerful dialogue between the representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths" in the hope "that progress just might be made" in addressing the terrible situation which has arisen in the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine during recent months.
In his advent message, Archbishop Rowan says:
"Christians in the weeks leading up to Christmas will be singing many hymns about the coming of God's Kingdom - when oppression and violence will be swept away and justice will be enthroned. This year, much of this will have a special poignancy, as we think about what is happening around the site of Jesus's birth: Bethlehem is not a quiet little town under the stars but a place of bloodshed and struggle. As we have seen on our screens, innocents are still killed not far from the manger and the stable.
"We shall be praying with special intensity this year for all the peoples of the Holy Land. But we also long to see signs that the world will be stirred to take some action to stop the spiral of terror that is mounting among Israelis and Palestinians. What if the United Nations stepped in to require a ceasefire over a period of religious celebration that lies ahead? Unusually this year, Muslim Ramadan largely coincides with Christian Advent; Christmas, Id and Hanukkah fall around the same time. This is an exceptional opportunity for some gesture towards peace."
Archbishop Rowan goes on to say:
"But there are long term questions to be addressed, and few in the Middle East at present seem to be asking them. Would it also be possible for Israel and the UN jointly to agree a commission of religious leaders, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, local and international, to be charged with making proposals for the future of Jerusalem? This is never going to be settled as a secular matter alone; and the signs are that on this matter it is by prayerful dialogue between the representatives of the faiths that progress just might be made. Such a move would have a committed support and prayer of millions of people".
In closing, Archbishop Rowan says:
"Meanwhile we shall be holding our Israeli and Palestinian friends in our thoughts and continuing to offer what practical help we can in their tragic situation."