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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Road to Mideast peace

The only option for peace between Palestinians and Israelis is the two-state solution, Mitri Raheb said June 5 at the ELCA churchwide offices in Chicago. "The question is, 'What kind of two-state solution? If we have the whole West Bank and Gaza, I think it will work out. ... My problem with the road map is they think of process. But if one suicide bombing happens, if settlers continue [building in the West Bank], the process will stop. ... [Israel] wants to keep the land but doesn't want to assume responsibility for the people who live there," said Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem.

Raheb said Israel's position has led to an "apartheid" solution--a literal wall of separation. "Most of the people I talk to in Bethlehem call [the U.S. administration's] road map a road trap," he added, saying he hoped President Bush would pursue this peace as determinedly as he did war with Iraq.

"I think we should not be shy about saying the way of Christ is a nonviolent way, although as Lutherans we might [not be] pacifists," he said. "When American-made F-16 fighters flown by Israelis destroy Palestinian communities, when Palestinian fundamentalists enter a bus and blow themselves up, this is a crisis of values.

Raheb hopes that in 20 years the majority of Palestinian leaders will be graduates of the church's International Center of Bethlehem. "As a minority among the minority we are seeking to shape the identity of the majority of the Palestinian people. ... Christ's vision for the people of this world was ambitious, and we can't have less," he said.

The cross, not power, is the answer to people's suffering, he said. Raheb spoke of hopeful signs in Lutheran ministries, describing a project where people made stained glass out of glass broken during Israeli incursions. This, he said, illustrates the Christian role in Palestine: "to look for images of destruction and transfer them through faith into images of hope, and to look for broken lives and transfer them into wholeness. ...We will not let destruction have the last word."


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