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Visiting Franciscan says compassion key to Mideast peace

Compassion is the key to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said a Dutch Franciscan priest who spent three months in the Bethlehem area as part of a civilian observation team.

"I think there is a solution, but you have to keep the history of the place in mind, and both sides need to have compassion for the pain of the other," said Franciscan Fr Louis Bohte, 55, of Heerlen, Netherlands.

"There is distrust and disappointment. They have to take time to listen and care and not be afraid if they say something critical that they will provoke a reaction from the other side," he told Catholic News Service.

Fr Bohte arrived in October with a group of eight European volunteers from United Civilians for Peace to provide an international presence among the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Some volunteers also worked with Israeli peace groups. They completed their stay in January.

A Look Backward, A Look Forward by Fr Louis Bohte (Olive Branch 6/11/01)