Jerusalem sacred for Palestinians, king says

Published January 1, 2000

Jordan’s King Abdullah put to rest any lingering doubts about his ability to lead the country after his father’s death.

Amman, Jordan

Jerusalem must be the capital city for Palestine as well as Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan told delegates at the World Conference on Religion and Peace.

“Jerusalem is too sacred and too symbolic for it to belong exclusively to one party,” King Abdullah said.

“It can accommodate two capitals, one Palestinian and one Israeli, and belong, as it should, to the entire world at the same time.”

Speaking to the 600 delegates, King Abdullah put to rest any lingering doubts about his ability to lead his country following the death of his father, King Hussein, in February.

“(I was) very glad that the king spoke as forcefully as he did about the Middle East situation, without being cantankerous,” said Rev. Bern Barrett of Ottawa, one of eight Canadian delegates.

Jerusalem is the most important city to Jews as the site of the temple built to house the Ark of the Covenant. It was last destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. It is also a holy city for Christians, since most of Jesus’ ministry was centred around there and his death was just outside the city.

For Muslims, it is the third most holy shrine after Mecca and Medina, mainly as the place where the angel Gabriel is said to have ascended into heaven with the Prophet Mohammed.

Jordan has a sizeable population of Palestinian refugees and the king’s wife, Queen Rania, is Palestinian.

Although there are Christian Palestinians, most are Muslim.

“Religion in itself does not cause war; its fanatic followers do,” King Abdullah said, addressing an audience that included leaders from most of the world’s major religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

He told the delegates the World Conference is the “epitome of religion as a source of peace.”

King Abdullah was “direct and very honest” said Mr. Barrett, a retired Anglican priest who is vice-president of the Canadian wing of the conference.

The New York-based organization held its first conference in 1970 in Kyoto, Japan, and meets every five years. This year the conference was to focus on the role religion will play in the next millennium. The theme this year is Global Action for Common Living; the Role of Religion in the Next Millennium.

The irony of holding a religion and peace conference in the Middle East, forced King Abdullah to focus on the Jerusalem question ? although he mentioned other conflicts with a religious edge to them, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

Having met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid in Amman during the conference, King Abdullah said, “Israel, our peace partner, perpetuates exclusion by its persistence that Jerusalem, both Arab and Israeli, is its capital alone.

King Abdullah chided world leaders for permitting “the problem of Palestinian refugees.

“It is high time the world atones for the crime by putting an end” to the Palestinian refugee problem by implementing United Nations Resolution 194, allowing refugees to return to their home, receive compensation and be allowed to work in peace and security.

The king called on world leaders not to let the Arab-Israeli conflict spill over into the new millennium, saying the parties to a conflict that has troubled the world for a century, should “end its disgraceful continuity.”


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