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Vicar Invites PLO Official to Address His Congregation

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A Church of England vicar who says he is “for Israel and for Palestine” has invited the London representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization to address his congregation at a religious service Dec. 15.

The invitation was extended by the Rev. Tony Crowe, rector of St. Luke with Holy Trinity in Charlton Village, to Afif Safieh. Safieh has accepted the invitation.

“I have heard Mr. Safieh speak many times and have been impressed by his eloquence, stature and diplomacy,” said Crowe, who is an active member of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding.

“He is a man of integrity and I expect him to speak out against injustice and in favor of peace and reconciliation,” Crowe said.

Noting that Safieh is a practicing Roman Catholic, the vicar said he would not have been invited if he were not a Christian, because the occasion is a religious one. He said he consulted his congregation beforehand and no one objected.

Crowe, 57, conceded that the PLO lost credibility after it supported Saddam Hussein of Iraq in the Gulf war. “But we have to encourage moderation, and Mr. Safieh is a moderate,” he said.

“I am for Israel and for Palestine because I believe Israel will only survive if Palestine is recognized,” Crowe said.

A spokesman for the Council of Christians and Jews said he was not surprised that a PLO official would preach to the congregation because “Rev. Crowe has a well-known bias.”

But Gordon Dulieu, press officer for the Diocese of Southwark, said: “The Rev. Crowe is not indulging in political tub-thumping but trying to find the best way toward exploring these difficult moral issues.

“The diocese visited the Holy Land last year and we do not take sides,” he said.

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