Christians, Muslims, Jews Cycle for Peace

LONDON – A group of cyclists consisting of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish members have bicycled from London to central Europe recently as part of a campaign to encourage peace between Israel and Palestine.

Now the team is cycling throughout the Middle East, having recently arrived in Amman on their way to Jerusalem.

The 22 participants of "Peace Cycle 2006" stopped in the city Tuesday for a peaceful demonstration at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) headquarters in Shmeisani before continuing on to Palestine Wednesday.

Team leader Sheridan James is from the U.K. and participated in the first Peace Cycle in 2004. She says she got involved because she became disillusioned with the traditional forms of protest and the minimal effect they were having on policy-makers.

"I felt none of it was making any difference. The government was not listening. People were not listening to the truth of what's happening," she said. James traded in standing on street squares with placards for protests on a bicycle while riding through Europe and the Middle East.

James said it has been a challenging ride, having to deal with extreme weather and steep climbs through mountainous areas, including the Alps. In some ways, she said, the Middle East has been just as difficult as some of the tougher terrain in Europe.

"Here the trouble is the heat. There's also been a lot of steep hills and in Amman the pollution has been terrible," she said, adding that the city's ill-marked speed bumps and road studs have been dangerous for the bikes and riders when they approach them at high speeds.

The cyclists met with Jordan's UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Mona Hider to share their concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel's refusal to comply with the U.N.'s resolution declaring its occupation of Palestinian lands illegal under international law.

"We're here to promote the idea of peace in the entire Middle East region," said New Zealander Conrad Libischer, who is riding with the team. "But we can't seriously promote the idea of peace until we get justice for the players involved. We don't want anyone to suffer and until there is some sort of justice for the Palestinian people, there cannot be peace in the Middle East."

During their stay in Amman, the group has been hosted by members of Follow the Women, an international cycling organization also dedicated to peace in the Middle East.

Fotouh Younes, national coordinator of Follow the Women, said the common interests made partnership a natural conclusion.

"We all have the same mission — to promote peace and encourage peaceful settlement in Palestine. We want to change the negative image of the Middle East and its people and shed some light on the Palestinian issue," she said.

The cyclists attempted to cross into Palestine Wednesday morning via the King Hussein Bridge and in the coming days will visit two refugee camps before completing their journey in Jerusalem on September 15.

The Peace Cycle is a biannual event and was founded in 2004 by Laura Abraham, a British woman who wanted to bring attention to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and bring justice to the Palestinian people.