Bridge over troubled water

Published June 7, 2010

Bishop Suheil Dawani
Photo: Art Babych

Bishop Suheil Dawani of the diocese of Jerusalem urged Anglicans to be friendly to both Palestine and Israel and to serve, along with other Christians, as a bridge between Muslims and Jews.

The bishop, a General Synod partner at the 2010 triennial meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada in Halifax, was called a “radical moderate” by Archbishop John Privett during an informal lunchtime question and answer session on Mon. Jun. 7.

Nearly a third of the 300 synod delegates brought box lunches and came to participate after having heard the Jerusalem bishop’s formal address during a plenary session Saturday morning.

Archbishop Privett asked Bishop Dawani if he could function in a land where many on both sides take extreme positions. Bishop Dawani replied that he felt it was not a contradiction for Christians-who make up only about two percent of the population-to try to be friendly to all sides. He saw it as the task of Christians to try to convince everyone that reaching a peace settlement which respects the dignity of all is in the best interests of everyone.

The bishop said that Jerusalem is home to sites sacred to all three of the Abrahamic religions-Jewish, Muslim, and Christian-and emphasized that it must be a shared and open city. Many Muslims and Jews do trust the Christian community, which includes 13 major denominations that work together in an ecumenical fashion. The Christians do have to balance what they say and do, while supporting people who are suffering.

Bishop Dawani said that his family and that of his wife Shafeeqa, who has been accompanying him, lost property in 1948 during the military conflict that followed the creation of the state of Israel. He said that their families are willing to start anew. The worst loss that Palestinians can experience, he said, is the loss of dignity, not material goods.

Mrs. Dawani spoke of her work to empower women in the diocese of Jerusalem. They have become known to each other and are visible within the Anglican church. In addition, many have learned computer skills, can use email and are on the Facebook.

Earlier during the day, synod passed a motion committing the church to a stronger partnership with the diocese of Jerusalem. It called on Anglicans in Canada to designate one Sunday a year for prayers for the bishop and his people, and also to regularly pray for the diocese.

It urged education about the history of the region, and informed discussion on current issues vital to the peoples who inhabit the area served by the diocese of Jerusalem. The diocese encompasses Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The resolution suggested more Anglican groups go to the Middle East and engage with Christians there. It also called on Anglicans to “enable Canadian distribution of Palestinian products and services.”

In a short debate on the resolution, delegate Elliott Siteman from the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island questioned why the resolution only mentioned Palestinian products and not those from other areas in the diocese of Jerusalem.

The resolution passed by a show of hands with a large majority, but there were a few dissenting votes.


  • Neale Adams

    Neale Adams is a freelance writer in Vancouver. He was former editor of Topic, the newspaper of the diocese of New Westminster.

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