From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LWF Delegation Visits Palestinian Authority President Arafat
"Frank Imhoff" <FRANKI@elca.org>
Fri, 07 Jun 2002 11:55:46 -0500
High-Ranking LWF Delegation Visits Palestinian Authority President
'Palestinian Economy Is Devastated'
RAMALLAH, West Bank/GENEVA, 7 June 2002 (LWI) - A Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) delegation was the first to visit Palestinian
Authority President Yasser Arafat following the recent attack on
his Ramallah headquarters. The delegation included members of the
LWF Executive Committee, LWF staff and representatives of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (ELCJ), working in
Palestine, Jordan and Israel.
After driving past demolished buildings, walking up an outside
staircase of sandbags and passing through heavily protected and
guarded hallways, the LWF representatives met with Arafat. "Your
delegation is the first one to visit me since our Palestinian
[Administration] (PA) compound was bombed and nearly destroyed
yesterday," Arafat told the group.
Early on the morning of June 6 the Israeli army again moved into
Ramallah with F-16 bombers, tanks and armored personnel carriers,
targeting the PA compound and destroying many buildings and
automobiles. Arafat's bedroom was struck and severely damaged but
he was not injured. His office was also damaged.
LWF president, Bishop emeritus Dr. Christian Krause, introduced
the delegation and expressed his gratitude to Arafat for receiving
the group, and extended sympathy for the grave situation which the
Palestinian leader and people are experiencing. "Nevertheless we
have to keep the fire burning and hope for peace for all the
people in this land. We would ask that you be insolidarity with
our Lutheran institutions and their work as they are in solidarity
with suffering people."
Jerusalem bishop and ELCJ head Munib A. Younan stated,
"Palestinian Christians are part and parcel of the Palestinian
people. What happens to Palestinians also happens to us. We are
very concerned about a political vacuum if the Palestinian
Authority is destroyed." The 3,000-member church joined the LWF in
"We are in the midst of a real tragedy," a subdued Arafat said.
"More than 67,000 Palestinian people have been killed or wounded
in this conflict. Our entire infrastructure is completely
destroyed, our Palestinian economy is devastated. In the Gaza
Strip 66 percent of the people live below the poverty line, 45
percent in the West Bank. The Israeli army has destroyed 50
percent of our farmland and 60 percent of our olive trees have
been uprooted. We call these Roman trees because many of them were
planted when the Romans were in this land, two thousand years
LWF general secretary, Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, assured Arafat that
people around the world support the Palestinian people. "I have
lived in South Africa," Noko said, "and I have experienced the
apartheid system which existed there. But I have never seen
anything like this," referring to the Israeli military occupation
of Palestinian land and people, the recent incursions, sieges and
curfews of many Palestinian cities and villages, as well as the
daily humiliations and problems at Israeli army checkpoints.
Expressing his gratitude for the presence and support of the
Palestinian Christian community, Arafat described the visit made
to him last Christmas by the 13 heads of churches in Jerusalem. "I
was not allowed to go to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas and be
with my people, but they brought Christmas to me." Showing
pictures of broken crosses which had been destroyed in a Lutheran
school in Bethlehem during the recent Israeli incursions, Arafat
deplored such actions, including the recent destruction of the
Santa Barbara shrne in the Palestinian village of Aboud.
Members of the LWF delegation from many countries expressed
solidarity with Arafat saying they indeed would speak out on
behalf of the Palestinian people and society. "You have to push
and do it quickly," the PA leader said. "There is not much time."
The LWF delegation will also meet with high Israeli officials,
including the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres.
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 133 member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5
million of the 64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted,
material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the
LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced
* * *
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