Church leaders ask UK Government to help stop annexation of West Bank

(Photo: Unsplash/Cole Keister)

Catholic and Anglican bishops have asked the UK Government to help prevent the annexation of the West Bank.

Israel is preparing to annex parts of the West Bank from 1 July in a move strongly opposed by Church leaders.

The Rt Rev Declan Lang, Catholic Bishop of Clifton and Chair of the Holy Land Coordination group, and the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark and the group's Anglican representative, said the annexation plans were not supported by local communities.

"From our dialogue with communities in the Holy Land, we know first-hand that the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Annexation would only bring more conflict, suffering and division," they said.

"The UK Government has a duty to act and to do everything possible to dissuade the Government of Israel from annexing the West Bank in violation of international law.

"This week we have made representations to the government and senior parliamentarians about the situation.

"Alongside other churches and faith groups we will continue to work on this fundamental question of justice and peace."

Their comments follow strong criticism of the plans from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

They said in letters to Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that they "unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel's citizens to live in peace and safety but these prospects can only be secured through negotiation rather than annexation."

They cited concerns from Church leaders in the Holy Land that the annexation of West Bank territory would "bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process."

The head of the World Evangelical Alliance has also questioned the move.  In a statement, Bishop Efraim Tendero echoed concerns that the annexation of West Bank territory would risk ending any hope for a negotiated peace.

"While evangelicals around the world have wide-ranging views on the many complex issues in the Holy Land, there is no doubt that the proposed annexation plans are detrimental for Israelis and Palestinians alike, so we clearly oppose such plans," he said.

"The WEA has Evangelical Alliance members representing both peoples and we seek and pray for peace and flourishing not only for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Israel and Palestine, but for everyone who lives in the Holy Land."

He added: "We pray for wisdom for all those involved and for a renewed commitment to negotiations where both sides respect each other's existence and the needs of both peoples, refrain from discrimination and violence, and work in good faith towards solutions that will bring lasting peace."