Ateek proposes ecumenical state

Published December 1, 2001

Canon Naim Ateek


A prominent Palestinian theologian says that a good starting point to achieve peace in the Middle East would be for all sides to accept that the land is God’s gift to all people – Palestinians as well as Israelis.

Canon Naim Ateek, founder and head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Centre in Jerusalem, told an audience at St. Paul University that a shared land could lead to an ecumenical state embracing two nations – Palestine and Israel – and three religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

“The only peace that can endure is that based on U.N. resolutions, international law, and an inclusive theology of the land,” Mr. Ateek said. His presentation was one of several talks he gave during a recent tour of five Canadian cities.

Describing the tour as part of his own non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, he appealed to North American Christians to support peace and justice. “You live in a democratic state. You can help us by lobbying your government to help the international community construct a lasting peace that recognizes the dignity of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Mr. Ateek said that Palestinian Christians – a frequently forgotten minority in the Middle East – have two things in common with their Muslim compatriots: a shared ethnicity and a yearning for a peaceful homeland.

Sabeel, an Arabic word meaning “the way” and “a spring of life-giving water,” is an ecumenical liberation theology movement that encourages Palestinian Christians and their supporters to pursue a vision of peace inspired by faith and non-violence. It strives to promote a balanced and accurate international awareness of the identity and presence of Palestinian Christians as part of an occupied people.

Mr. Ateek predicted that despite the history of the past 50 years, the status quo is transitory. “The state of Israel has been a success in many ways, but Israel doesn’t take into account that God is the God of justice. God’s love is for all people, not for just one segment of humanity.”

Susan Korah is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.


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