The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recently concluded a four day visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestine with personal prayers for “peace and for justice for all the people of the region,” including those who felt so little hope for the future. “God’s faithfulness is sure and will never fail,” said the Archbishop.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Salam Fayyad spoke warmly of the vibrant and important contribution made by the Christian community and Anglican institutions such as St Luke’s Hospital in Nablus to the whole of the Palestinian community, regardless of faith.
The Archbishop emphasized during his stay that peace could not be achieved without sacrifice on all sides because the interests of one were intimately bound up with the interests of the other.
According to a press release, the Archbishop met with Christians in the Holy Land, and Anglicans in the Diocese of Jerusalem, as well as local heads of state and government. He was accompanied throughout by Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, a Jerusalem bishop.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also led the Anglican delegation in a fourth round of discussions with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel along with the Anglican Chair to the Anglican Jewish Commission Rt Rev Bishop Michael Jackson.
The Archbishop spoke of his and the Anglican Communion’s pride in the contribution local Christians were making to the service of the whole community in very challenging circumstances as, according to the office of the Archbishop, “The suffering of the Palestinian community called for courage and generosity.” During his stay, Archbishop Rowan Williams visited the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza and also rededicated the St Philip’s Chapel which had been damaged during the conflict and newly renovated for use by the hospital staff and community.
While in Jordan, the highest representative of the Anglican Church visited the Jofeh Community Rehabilitation Centre in the Jordan Valley, which is run by the Diocese of Jerusalem which provides a range of services to children with a variety of disabilities -the majority come from Muslim families. Many are either deaf, visually impaired, or blind and some suffer from multiple disabilities. Training and skill development in a range of crafts and specialized skills are provided and the children’s work is sold commercially.
Among the religious rituals conducted during his tour, Dr Williams joined over 750 Anglican parishioners, mainly from Amman, to bless the foundation stone of the Great Church of St John the Baptist to be built at the Baptismal Site – the site of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist (who is referred to as the Holy Messenger Yahya in Islam) on the River Jordan – upon land generously donated to the diocese by His Majesty King Abdullah.
Archbishop Williams met personally with King Abdullah during his stay, as well as other heads of state including Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Salam Fayyad, and President of Israel, Shimon Peres. In his meeting with Mr. Peres, the Archbishop discussed the current state of relations between Israel and Palestine, the contribution of Christian communities and their institutions – especially schools and hospitals – to national life, the importance of inter-faith dialogue, and a range of environmental issues including water. The Archbishop and Dr Fayyed discussed the state of the peace process, prospects for continued improvements for the economy of the West Bank, and the urgent need for investment. The Prime Minister spoke warmly of the vibrant and important contribution made by the wider Christian community for the improvement of life in Gaza.
Earlier in February, the Archbishop of Canterbury received the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths Building Bridges Award. The award was made in recognition of the Archbishop’s commitment to addressing contemporary cultural and inter faith issues.