Unification News for January 2005
The Road to Ramallah Has Now Become the Road to Peace
by Rev. Jenkins
January 9, 2005, Dr. Yang, Mr. Taj Hamad, Imam Haitham Bundakji and I were guided by a friend named Muhammad throughout the election polling places in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As international observers for the Central Election Commission of Palestine our IIFWP contingent were totally welcomed in all polling places we visited. The polls were well organized and the spirit of the people was one of guarded hope. The people had their last election experience in 1996. It was clear as voters lined up and timidly presented their ID that they were apprehensive. It was all so new to them. Especially in East Jerusalem. Many shared with us (in Arabic to Taj and Imam Bundakji) the fear that they would lose their Israeli IDs for voting and their ability to go back and forth to family in Ramallah.
Dr. Yang and Taj Hamad and members of our party met President Jimmy Carter along the way. He made a great contribution representing America's concern for free and fair elections giving tremendous credibility and support for the process. He expressed concern for what he perceived as obstacles or hindrances to the voting process in East Jerusalem. Checkpoints mean it can take hours for people to return from their work back to their homes. Lack of clarity of which polling place to come to was a major difficulty expressed by voters.
President Carter described the situation in the early morning in East Jerusalem as one of chaos. Checkpoints were not eased. People didn't know where to go. He called Prime Minister Sharon to ask for more support for the process. The Israelis made more effort, and President Carter felt that problems were eased. When Imam Bundakji asked President Carter about the situation, he said it is being taken care of.
All in all, it was a new day in history for Palestine and for the whole Arab world. The hope is there and the commitment is there from the people who have integrity from America, Palestine and Israel. It is a very delicate situation. The formation of a new nation is never simple or without turmoil. What was it like when America was founded? One key is that it was guided not only by belief in self-governance but a reliance on faith in God to light the path. Faith is one of the most profound things in the Middle East. This new nation has the great potential to be truly founded with faith in God. Whether you are a believer or not, as the Muslim call to prayer gently floats through the air in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza you are embraced by a culture that is founded in faith. Jews, Muslims and Christians are all part of one fabric here. When you visit Bethlehem to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas (January 7) you see the people of faith who profoundly guide the spirit of this city in the West Bank. When you drive through Jerusalem at dinner time on Shabbat you see thousands of families intermingled with the rabbis walking to synagogue and then pouring out on to the streets to walk home for this moment of prayer and dinner with the family - in faith. Faith is inextricably part of the very essence of the communities here. It is the fabric that ties us together, for the threads of this fabric all lead back to Abraham and finally back to God. The historic time has now come to mend the fabric and heal this family.
International observers came from all over the world: Japan, America (Senator John Kerry, Secretary Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Sununu and many others), South Africa, Australia and the European Union, to mention a few. The observers would ask questions to the poll workers and the voters alike. How many voted? How many can vote here? How do people find their polling place? The turnout in East Jerusalem was very low in the morning but picked up in the afternoon. All the polling places in Jerusalem were post office locations. Some were extremely small - the first one we went into in East Jerusalem was so small, Imam Bundakji joked, "This is not only a post office - this is the size of a postage stamp." (Only about 10 people could fit in the room before the counter.)
Then we went to the main site in Jerusalem. Over 1000 voters were eligible to come at that location. By 10 am only 50 had voted. It changed a great deal in the afternoon. Then to another site and another and on to the West Bank. We went to Abu Dis, Bethany and then to locations throughout Ramallah. The pace in the West Bank, which was without hindrances, was brisk.
By the evening the results were clear. Mr. Maumoud Abbas has a clear majority and will be the president. Celebrations went on in the streets of Ramallah. A valid and totally well-organized election with a number of candidates had now been given the stamp of approval by the international observers as well as the international community of nations. Self-determination and self -governance were now being introduced by Palestine to the Arab world. President Arafat must be congratulated on this day. The people he raised, unified and loved saw him standing behind Maumoud Abbas - both in the posters all over the streets and in spirit. Mr. Abbas dedicated the victory to President Arafat. The great Palestinian people conducted themselves with dignity and sincerity. People were encouraged to vote. The factions that sat it out also acted with dignity and restraint. They could have disrupted the process, but they also felt that they would give it a chance. (The amount of time this window will remain open is a most serious question). Mr. Abbas is ready to follow the road map. If America totally commits to the map, Israel may be able to follow. Enormous obstacles stand in the way, however; they must be addressed and solved. People of faith with help from God can bring solutions where none seemed to exist.
When Father Moon sent us on to the Holy Land in May of 2003, the purpose was to begin with the reconciliation of Jews, Christians and Muslims. He commissioned us, saying, "Through this process peace will come in the Middle East." All went forward in faith but with little understanding or conviction as to how this would really be achieved. When we arrived in Jerusalem on the first pilgrimage the idea of elections could hardly be discussed. There was little hope and no movement. There was little communication and dialogue between decision makers. Trust had disintegrated. Everything was static and had ground to a standstill.
Now through the continuous interaction of Muslims, Christians and Jews we are seeing tremendous hope and movement for peace. As one Ambassador for Peace , Dr. Eliezar Glaubach said, "Through the last 20 months of the Pilgrimages the atmosphere has completely changed. The attitudes and the hearts of people are opening toward one another. This change came because of this effort. I believe it, I know it, I could see it with my own eyes." Great Jewish leaders are emerging at this time who see that Ishmael and Isaac must come together. We must live together as brothers.
Through this path key Israeli leaders gave support and advice along the way. Dr. Joshua Ben Ami risked his life to say that Jews must reconcile and embrace our brother Jesus. He didn't just say it, he did it - he gave Jesus a crown. (As did Mr. Hod Ben Zvi). That's why he and Imam Bundakji could weep together and even exchange the Jewish kippah with the Muslim cap. They walked with Father Moon when no one believed. Now they proudly are telling their family and friends that this path is the path to peace. It is a path of absolute respect for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Palestinian leaders also advised this movement for peace. "Heart to Heart for Peace" it has been called.
This Heart to Heart effort just concluded a beautiful and most successful futbol (soccer) tournament in the Gaza strip the day before the election. It was developed by IIFWP and WANGO. Top officials and religious leaders advised and gave support as well as worked to help our representatives (Mr. Kamal Thabet and Stephen Gabb) identify competitive teams. 16 teams competed. It was a thrilling championship that led to a overtime finale in which each team would have one player go one on one with the goalie. Heart to Heart is what bound us to the key leaders there.
One person who was the key coordinator for the elections in Rafah told me that the elections are a turning point. We are ready for peace. If America supports Mr. Abbas and helps him show real results and improvements in the lives of our people, all factions will come to the table peacefully. He said if we don't see results, it may quickly deteriorate and become a violent cycle once again.
Now the chance is put before us at this moment in history. People of faith in cooperation with elected officials, who are people of principle and character, must quickly come to the front in Palestine, Israel and America. This is the time for people of great vision, faith, integrity and courage to quickly come to the table to help the process of supporting the self -determination of people who love God.
The World Peace Pilgrimages brought 10,000 leaders to the Holy Land in the last 20 months. Members of parliament, religious leaders, NGO leaders from over 150 nations have come here and are now seeing themselves as part of the process. All want to involve their nations in support, most want to return with more legislators. Why? Jerusalem is the Holy City, the City of Peace: the city where Jesus and Muhammad made the transition to the world of the spirit, where Abraham offered his son, where God's heart weeps for humanity.
Because Jerusalem is an epicenter of the convergence of the Abrahamic faiths, reconciliation achieved here will create a wave of change throughout the world of faith. A change that will bring cooperation, unity and understanding between Muslims, Christians and Jews and all people of faith worldwide. When cooperation and understanding based on faith is achieved, conflict can and will be resolved without bloodshed. Not only we who reside on the earth but our ancestors are now pouring down as the scriptures predicted - as myriads from heaven - with the returning Lord.
Palestine is now in a position to be a model of hope for the world. Father Moon is calling all Ambassadors for Peace from 191 countries to come to the Holy Land and pray and work for peace. We pray for Palestine. We pray for God's people - the Muslims and Christians in Nablus, Ramallah and Gaza. We pray for the Jewish people who have been called by God. We pray for the City of Jerusalem.
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