Posted On : March 26, 2004 10:21 AM | Posted By : Webmaster
We - the Bishop of Tokyo and his accompanying 11 members - visited the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem for 10 days from 3 February, 2004.
The Council of Justice and Peace under the diocese of Tokyo, which worked on this visit programme, wanted to make it clear that the primary purpose of this visit was an attempt to share the mission and ministries of the Churches and Christians who seek justice and peace in this particular region, as the root causes of major conflicts of the present world seem to emanate from here.
Among the people of Tokyo Diocese, there were some who had reservations about sending an official team at this time, as media reports from the region every day highlight violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. The Japanese government also recently increased its warnings about the region to its people, stating that ordinary tourists should not travel to it. Following this official advice, many Japanese Churches have stopped sending pilgrimages to the Holy Lands.
For this very reason, however, we wanted to visit our brothers and sisters in Christ in Israel/Palestine. We had been hoping, therefore, to see as many Palestinian friends as possible and to learn from them. Here are the points we strongly feel we need to communicate to peace-loving people in the rest of the world, after our 10-day visit.
The on-going construction of the wall by the Israeli Government ignores the internationally agreed border between Israeli territory and the West Bank/Gaza, and is actually threatening and destroying Palestinian lives.
The act of planting Jewish settlements and building connecting roads within the West Bank and Gaza is threatening the existence of Palestinian communities. This illegal act is an intentional confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli government, which has been continuously carried out in a number of ways since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
While the Palestinians within the state of Israel are recognized as citizens along with the Jewish population, in reality they are much discriminated against in terms of education, employment, medical services, in the possession of land and property, and in other administrative or judicial procedures. Their social status seems much similar to that of native Africans under South Africa’s previous "Apartheid" system – when viewed against the status enjoyed by Jewish citizens.
Some Christian Churches in the world, particularly those with fundamentalist tendencies, are insensitive to these issues and are "Christian Zionists" with a sympathetic view towards the Israelis and the Jewish religion, and as a result they become uncritical collaborators with Israeli policies, ignoring the voices of Palestinian Christians.
Under the above-mentioned circumstances, many Christians in Palestine/Israel are driven into a situation, where it becomes harder and harder for them to see a future for their own personal or family lives - hence the immigration of the Christian population from Palestine/Israel continues to be considerable and unavoidable. This endangers the very existence of the indigenous Churches of Palestine.
The majority of Palestinians, including Palestinian Christians, are naturally against any violent and armed resistance, for example suicide-bombing against Israeli soldiers and citizens. Both ordinary Palestinians and Israeli citizens are no doubt yearning for a peace based on justice.
In spite of the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of both sides, the Israeli government continues to rob the land, to destroy the houses and to barricade the roads within Gaza/the West Bank. These acts of the Israeli government are as inhuman and evil as the act of terrorism.
The most urgent plea of Palestinian Churches and Christians is a recognition by the international community and the Churches around the world that they are in the midst of genuine suffering, and that their voices should be heard.
Under this desperate situation Palestinian Churches and Christians are making every effort for the improvement of education, medical services and social welfare for their fellow Palestinians.
The diocese of Tokyo is determined to pursue its effort in keeping the friendship and fellowship of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and to understanding the situation of the Palestinian people.
Naturally, we were most blessed by the opportunity to go to the Bible Lands and to be in the places where Jesus Christ lived. It was a precious experience for us to take a walk around Lake Galilee and to celebrate the Eucharist at the Church in Nazareth as well as at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. It was a wonderful experience for our Christian faith. At the same time we deeply wish to share the suffering and hope of the people who are actually living in these places.
We are most thankful for the people of the Diocese of Jerusalem and to the people of the Diocese of Tokyo, who have made this trip possible. With our prayers that peace and justice may soon come to this part of the world.
The Rt Revd Peter Jintaro Ueda, the Bishop of Tokyo, and 11 accompanying members
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, The Anglican Communion in Japan