The Pope, Prayers, and the Middle East

True to his developing reputation as an original and courageous leader, Pope Francis has led the Israeli and Palestinians in prayer together.

It is probable that no other individual on Earth right now could bring that off.

If ping-pong diplomacy could cut the ice in US-China relations in the 20th century, then maybe prayer can do the same in the 21st.

It certainly will not be the United States that brings Israel and Palestine together in any meaningful way, with great respect to John Kerry’s motivation and skills. The US as a country is far too tarnished in the Middle East and it should stop pretending otherwise.

It could be argued that the leading representative of ‘Christendom’ is also not the best individual to bring the two belligerent sides together. Christianity has its own deep historical baggage in the region, and the current illness that afflicts the Church, from Ireland to Australia, penetrates to the very roots of its institutional integrity.

But maybe that is half the point. We are all flawed. And the modern dispute is, after all, between adherents of Jewish and Muslim faith. Extremist adherents of all faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and indeed Hindu and Buddhist – will not compromise or perceive a common spirituality. But moderates of all faiths do.

And the global trend, led by the Pope though not confined to him, is towards a global recognition of a common human spirituality. So, it is just conceivable that high-profile demonstrations of this underlying unity of values might go some way to thawing the frozen conflict.

7 Comments Posted

  1. The issue is precisely religion. I’ve long contended that tribalism is the world’s greatest evil, and that religion is the most dangerous manifestation of tribalism. That’s because it’s Righteous Tribalism.
    What the pope is doing here is exactly the opposite of Righteous Tribalism. He’s showing his ability to step away from his pedestal and embrace other beliefs as worthy.
    Belief is worthy of respect, it’s an individual’s absolute right.
    Religion is worthy of contempt.
    May The Force be with you…

  2. Well, best of luck to Mr Pope, but what does the recognition of a common spirituality have to do with a question that hinges on land ownership?

  3. The issue is not religion. Judaism is a religion with a tradition of social justice for all. The issue is the political agenda of Zionism, which originated in Eastern Europe, calling for Zionists to control all the land, all of the water , with as few of the natives as possible. The most informed, articulate passionate opponents of Zionism are Jews, around the world and in Israel itself.
    And by the way many Palestinian leaders, including Hanan Ashrawi are Christian (and probably some are secular). Israel is trying to drive a wedge between Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims. Divide and rule is always a tool of oppressors.
    Actually the early Zionists were secular.
    A useful website is
    Philip Weiss is an American Jew who considered himself a Zionist until he went to the Middle East to see the situation for himself.

  4. You raise some valid points..
    BUT is Pope Francis really trying to RE-unite ‘all people of faith’ under the ‘authority of ROME’ (return the world to the middle ages)?

    kia ora

  5. This is encouraging thinking and perspective. Bridge builders are needed in so many situations. Including in our parliament! Keep up the good work, Kenneth.

  6. Intelligent and cutting edge insight, kenndy. Peace can only come from those who do not promote bombs

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