Stop devastation of Jordan River

The river holds special importance for Christians due to the Bible saying Jesus was baptised in it.

September 22, 2010 | Web First
By Judith Sudilovsky | Ecumenical News International

The European Parliament has expressed concern at devastation to the Jordan River and has called on Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to "cooperate and rehabilitate" it.

The river holds special importance for Christians due to the Bible saying Jesus was baptised in it.

The parliament of the European Union called, "on the governments of Israel and Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to work in a spirit of cooperation in order to save the Lower Jordan River, and (urge) them to establish, with the support of the European Union, a Jordan River Basin Commission," in a Sept. 9 resolution.

At the same time the parliament welcomed cooperation among the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian local communities who are facing water challenges in the Lower Jordan River area. It called on Israel and Jordan to "fully honour" commitments made in their peace treaty concerning the rehabilitation of the Jordan River. 

The EU resolution was initiated by leaders of the Group of Socialists and Democrats with strong support from all major parties in the parliament. 

It marked the first time the European Parliament had directly called upon leaders in the region to address the state of the Jordan River, said the Friends of the Earth Middle East, an ecological advocacy group with offices in Amman, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv which has championed the cause of the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. 

In the past the European Parliament has noted the health risks for pilgrims who come to the Israeli and Jordanian baptismal sites on banks of the polluted river. 

Both countries consider the baptismal sites as part of their main offerings for Christian pilgrims and both claim their side of the river as the authentic site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

"We believe a serious regional effort to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River can provide concrete, mutual benefits with a strong peace-building dividend," said Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East. 

The EU resolution said, "The issue of water management, and particularly the fair distribution of water in keeping with the needs of all the people living in the region, is of the utmost importance for lasting peace and stability in the Middle East."

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