Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Diamond: Delegation made progress

Complaints aired despite refusal to meet

By Steve Eder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Very Rev. James Diamond's latest journey to Israel was thrown off-course when Palestinian religious leaders refused to meet with Israeli religious officials to discuss peace efforts.

        The Rev. Mr. Diamond, the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati, was the only United States representative in the delegation traveling to the region for reconciliation discussions last week as part of the Alexandria Conference of Interfaith Leaders.

        Even though the sides did not meet, the Rev. Mr. Diamond says progress still was made. He and fellow leaders salvaged the trip by coordinating separate meetings for both sides to air their complaints.

        “I think there is hope,” the Rev. Mr. Diamond said in an interview Monday, three days after returning from the region.

        “We had a backing off between the two groups, so that the Palestinians could express their anger. There was a time to vent,” he said.

        In separate meetings, Palestinian representatives complained about Israeli military activity and restrictions of movement and speech by the Israeli government, he said. Israeli leaders were frustrated by suicide bombings and the lack of security.

        “When you continue to talk to each other, the other becomes human and you begin to care,” said the Rev. Mr. Diamond, who also participated in meetings in March. “The more you talk, the more a relationship develops.” The group canceled a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, but plans to reschedule later in the year.

        The conference, which was designed to organize a blueprint for discussions about holy sites, includes top Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders from the region and the world.

        The Rev. Mr. Diamond expects more meetings to occur in the next two months.


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