Religious Leaders' Responses to Arafat's Death Vary

November 11, 2004

Source: ABC News

Wire Service: AP

On November 11, 2004 the Associated Press reported, "Upon Yasser Arafat's death, the Vatican and religious leaders worldwide issued heartfelt pleas for renewed peace efforts. But their reactions reflected long-standing disagreements about both the Palestinian leader himself and the intractable Mideast situation. Arafat 'will be remembered in radically different and often contradictory ways,' the Lutheran World Federation said in a statement that captured the spectrum of religious reaction. To Palestinians he was 'a freedom fighter, a heroic leader, a father figure,' and to Palestinian Christians 'a strong supporter of their religious rights ... (but) for others he was an implacable foe, an obstacle for peace,' said the joint statement from federation General Secretary Ishmael Noko and Bishop Mark Hanson, who heads both the federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of America's Union for Reform Judaism, bluntly agreed with the latter assessment: 'Arafat chose terror and jihad over compromise and peace. He could have been the leader of a state and he chose instead to be the head of a violent and corrupt gang. His actions left Jews and Palestinians alike drenched in a sea of blood.'"