Churches want more support for Middle East peace process

The Church of England and Catholic Church have expressed their disappointment after the UK abstained from a vote on Palestine in the UN last week.

Bishop Michael Langrish, the Church of England's lead bishop on international affairs, and Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Catholic Church's Department for International Affairs, outlined their concerns in a joint letter to William Hague.

The bishops said the UK's decision to abstain from a vote on the Palestinian bid for non-member observer status was "regrettable".

The failure to implement the two-state solution would be a "tragedy" for Palestinians and Israelis alike as the bishops warned that the only alternative would be "continuing conflict".

The Palestinian bid to upgrade its status at the UN represented, they said, a "legitimate and non-violent attempt at breaking the current political impasse".

"As such, it deserved wide support.

"This conflict has gone on too long, and its continuing human cost is clear, not only in the recent sad loss of life on both sides during the recent Gaza-related violence, but in terms of the insidious burden the current situation places upon both occupied and occupier, and in the loss of potential, especially amongst young people.

"These are the poisoned fruits of a political stalemate. Merely seeking to manage this frustrating stalemate and to contain the inevitable fallout is no longer a viable strategy and will if persisted with only result in additional human suffering."

The bishops called upon the Foreign Secretary to increase efforts to revitalise the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

They also said that the work being done by religious leaders to build bridges of understanding "deserves greater support and recognition" from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"Such efforts can serve as a way of refocusing attention back to the key struggle – the need to respect the civil, religious and political rights of all those - Jew, Christian, Muslim, Arab and Israeli - caught in the conflict," the bishops concluded.