THE Kirk's Moderator and the Scots landmine charity made famous by Princess Diana have mobilised in a push to clear thousands of unexploded bombs and mines littering the Holy Land around the baptism site of Jesus Christ.

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Right Reverend Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, paid tribute to those carrying out work to clear deadly landmines on a visit to the Middle East where he has supported the HALO Trust.

HeraldScotland:

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning and Ronen Shimoni of the Halo Trust. Image: HALO Trust

They plan to clear mines from an area the equivalent size of 138 football pitches or in the historic but disputed Jordan Valley River region at Qaser al-Yuhud, or “Castle of the Jews”.

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Dr Browning is currently on an official visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan to meet with Church of Scotland colleagues and partners and has liaised with Ronen Shimoni, of the Dumfries-based humanitarian charity battling against the "global catastrophe caused by landmines".

The trust has been spearheading de-mining work since 1988 but came to global prominence when it arranged for Diana to walk through an Angolan minefield in 1997.

HeraldScotland:

Dr Browning points to an explosive device. Image: HALO Trust

A delegation from the Church, including Robin Downie, Moderator of the National Youth Assembly, visited the Baptism Site called Qasr el-Yahud, close to which clearing mines from the area is the next challenge.

Qasr el-Yahud sits about five miles east of Jericho and is the western part of the traditional site linked with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

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Dr Browning said: “On my first full day in Israel-Palestine, I visited one of the sites where Jesus is reputed to have been baptised.

“It's a place of great significance to people of faith since the River Jordan is a moving thread that weaves its way through Christian and Jewish faith traditions.”

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Dr Browning said the site has significance for the people of Israel, Palestine and Jordan and people are challenged to think about baptism, new beginnings, fresh starts and personal and sometimes national transformation

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He said: “To walk past church sites on the Israeli side of the river which were mined and booby-trapped in 1967, to see the derelict buildings and cemeteries around them, and to know that today the Halo Trust, supported by Christian communities in the Holy Land, and the governments of Jordan and Israel, are working to make the area safe again is a powerful thing."

“I can't help but wonder that the image of baptism, which is about new beginning and fresh starts, in a persistently troubled region in the world, can only be a good thing.

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“It brings people of different faith and political traditions together and helps them reflect not only on what has been, and what currently is.

“But what might be in the future when people can, should and must talk and work together for safety, welcome and peace.”

HeraldScotland:

James Cowan, CEO of HALO, said it is "enormously grateful to the Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning and the Church of Scotland for its interest and support of our work on the Baptism Site".

He said: "Last time I visited myself, I was heartened to see three HALO de-miners – a Georgian Christian, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim – all sharing stories about their families.

"For me, this is what this project is all about.

"It is an unprecedented act of inter-faith unity in the region."