Friday, January 18, 2008

A Christian Leader Speaks

When he walked into the room I already knew I would like Dr. Bernard Sabella. A Roman Catholic and a Palestinian, Dr. Sabella is a leader at the Middle East Council of Churches as well as an elected member of the Palestinian parliament. He had a refreshing outlook on peace between Israel and Palestine and I know that, with more people like him, we'd see real progress toward an end to this conflict.

In Sabella's mind the Christian community is not a key player, but is an important player nevertheless in ending the conflict. The existence of Palestinian Christians ensures that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not simply a struggle between Jews and Muslims. Christian Palestinians, now only 1.5% of the population in Israel-Palestine, have dwindled in population because of the ongoing lack of law and order in the territories.

Palestinians will have to learn how to live in peace among themselves, Sabella notes, because there is now little honor or honesty among them. The long years of the Intifada and Israeli response have decimated the Palestinian judicial system, leaving little institutional strength with which to muster a fair and just society. Palestinians are further divided between Hamas/Fatah and West Bank/Gaza contingents, making little opportunity for internal leadership. Israel, on the other hand, has much institutional strength and quickly outsmarts and outlast Palestinian initiatives.

The way ahead will be to educate and empower young Palestinians to build their nation. He admires the American educational system in which the effort is always toward individual actualization. Palestine needs an educational system that can help its people live up to their potential.

As far as a negotiating strategy goes, if Sabella had his way there would be two states and Jerusalem would remain a united city with subsections for both Jews and Palestinians overseen by a single administrative/judicial structure. A central core of Jerusalem would be an international city owned by all peoples of Israel and Palestine.

Sabella is clearly someone who needs to be heard. I'm glad he'll be in Seattle in April for the Living Stones Conference (

And I'm glad the church includes a man like Sabella who has a vision for how to bring peace to a troubled land.


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