(photo credit: George Conger)
There is "an almost total absence" of any belief that a political solution can be found to the Israel-Palestinian conflict among those who live in the region, the Archbishop of Canterbury will say in his Christmas Day address, according to excerpts released Sunday.
Fresh from a visit to the Holy Land, Anglican spiritual leader Rowan Williams will say in a speech to be aired Monday that he found it chilling how many people in the region had given up hope in a negotiated peace settlement and urged the rest of the world not to turn its backs on the region.
Both Israeli and Palestinian communities feared a future in which they were allowed to disappear "while the world looks elsewhere," Williams said, according to the excerpts.
"Go and see, go and listen; let them know, Israelis and Palestinians alike, that they will be heard and not forgotten.
"Both communities in their different ways dread - with good reason - a future in which they will be allowed to disappear while the world looks elsewhere.
"The beginning of some confidence in the possibility of a future is the assurance that there are enough people in the world committed to not looking away and pretending it isn't happening.
"It may not sound like a great deal, but it is open to all of us to do; and without friendship, it isn't possible to ask of both communities the hard questions that have to be asked, the questions about the killing of the innocent and the brutal rejection of each other's dignity and liberty."
During his visit to Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born, Williams said Israel's security barrier, which cut through it, symbolized what was "deeply wrong in the human heart."
On Saturday, Williams clashed with the British government when he said the "shortsightedness" and "ignorance" of Britain's policies on Iraq were putting Christian communities in the region at risk. The Foreign Office issued a quick rebuttal, saying their suffering was caused by the "intolerant extremism" of those opposed to a democratic society.