Visit prompts prayer vigils for Palestine

netanyahuPeople of different (and no) faiths are invited to pray on Thursday for the situation in Israel and Palestine in the light of the current visit to Australia by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Anglican priest Father James Minchin will conduct the regular Thursday prayer vigil for Israel and Palestine at St Paul’s Cathedral in central Melbourne beginning at 11.55am. It will be followed at 1pm by a special Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem half hour session that will be conducted by Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins.

Fr Minchin belongs to the ecumenical Friends of Sabeel group that campaigns for a non-violent, just resolution of the Palestinian situation. He said both sessions “will have a special focus on facing the truth of Israel and Palestine during Netanyahu’s visit”.

“The focus is very much on praying for all parties involved and praying that a just way forward can be found that’s not going to make life more and more difficult for the Palestinian people,” Fr Minchin said.

He believed the hard line being taken by the Netanyahu coalition government in aggressively appropriating more land in the Palestinian territories for Israeli settlement and treating critics with contempt did not bode well.

This was exacerbated by the Trump administration’s apparent unquestioning backing of Israeli intransigence.

“It doesn’t appear to be heading to either a just two-state solution nor does it appear to be offering proper security to the Palestinian people, many of whose ancestors go back hundreds of years. They are now being displaced because what our prime minister calls the miracle of modern Israel, is just replacing it and riding roughshod,” Fr Minchin said.

“What’s happened is a constant eroding of the Palestinian extent and control of their land.  The Palestinians are put in a position of fatal weakness where almost their only hope is to plead for help from the international community, which makes all sorts of feeble gestures but it is doing very little in real terms.”

He said for Christians it was important to inform themselves of what was going on.

“I think the lack of care in our understanding of the Middle-East generally is appalling,” Fr Minchin said.

“It’s very important to read and listen carefully to what’s happening in the wider world, to follow what’s happening in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.

“It’s very important to lobby for the recognition of Palestine as Bob Hawke, Gareth Evans and others have requested. Bob Carr and Kevin Rudd are also on board.”

Fr Minchin said the prayer sessions will be one way for Christians to gain a greater understanding.

“It will be both as truthful but as non-polemical as we can make it because we want to encourage people to look into themselves and make up their own minds,” he said.

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network is coordinating a series of events to coincide with Mr Netanyahu’s visit and has compiled resources to inspire Christians to action.

Last year the Uniting Church of Australia launched the Living Stones campaign to highlight awareness that this year marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands.

Image: Downing St/Flickr

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