Toronto: “This is most definitely a work in progress,” explains the Very Rev. David Giuliano when asked about the outcome of a recent visit to Israel and Palestine by the General Council Executive Working Group on Middle East Policy. Giuliano, a former United Church Moderator, is chairing the Working Group and acts as its spokesperson.
The 12-day visit of the nine-member delegation included time spent with representatives of Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, and Israeli communities. This visit included opportunities to meet with a wide variety of people who offered the Working Group many different perspectives on how the United Church can best contribute to the Middle East peace process.
“Our mandate during this trip was to listen and to learn, not to draw immediate conclusions,” says Giuliano. He explains that the Working Group has been asked by the General Council to build on previous United Church actions with regard to the Middle East and to review their effectiveness in contributing to a resolution of the conflict.
Giuliano says the Working Group’s report and recommendations, not expected to be completed until January 2012, will assist the General Secretary of the General Council, Nora Sanders, in reporting to the 41st General Council, which meets in Ottawa in August 2012. He explains that this trip is one part of a much broader process of consultation and dialogue that the Working Group has been and will continue to be engaged in over months to come.
He says, “A key part of this exploration will include reviewing the effectiveness of the church’s past policies and actions with regard to the Middle East as well as considering future policies that will assist in ending the occupation of Palestinian territories and moving the peace process to completion.”
Giuliano explains that there is significant engagement of this issue from many parts of the church with many different perspectives. In recent years, it has been a point of intense debate both publicly and within the church’s decision-making bodies. In part, he says, this is because of the complexity of the situation and the differences of opinion that frame the debate. It is also because there is significant importance to the decisions the church has made and will make concerning these issues.
“I believe the action of the General Council in 2009 has led our church into deeper reflection about the nature of our discipleship toward justice and peace in the Middle East,” says Giuliano. “What the General Secretary and the Executive of General Council will bring forward to the next General Council will have significant implications for our church and beyond.”
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