In a conversation with a peace delegation from the United States, the Vatican's representative in Jerusalem warned that there could be starvation within a month in Palestinian villages isolated by the fresh outbreak of violence.

While most attention focuses on the political struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, Father Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Delegate for the Vatican in the Holy Land, said that the economic battle has become very serious. Unemployment is rampant and "five people depend on each salary," he said. The destruction of crops means that "starvation will begin soon."

Like many church leaders who met with the delegation, Sambi is worried about the future of the Christian presence in and around Jerusalem. "As Christians we have some common problems," he said, many of them related to issues of identity. "We are here to keep alive the faith."

"There is also a sense of solitude and loneliness for Christians, without a strong sense of solidarity." It was clear to him that Christians would either survive together-or disappear together.

While Muslims in the Middle East have the support of Muslims all over the world, that is not really true of Christians in the Holy Land, he contended. "The lack of solidarity, however, is felt more at the level of church leaders than at the grassroots," he added. Christians need "the support of disciples of Jesus around the world for survival."

As a minority, Christians "lack strength and courage" unless they have a clear and strong identity. "What is the motivation for Christian children to remain?" he asked. "What's the identity of a Christian living in a Muslin culture, or in a Jewish culture?"

Changing images When asked about the collapse of the peace process and the outbreak of violence, ...

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