A group of American blacks including Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress, preached a policy of nonviolence to Lebanese and Palestinian leaders today during the second day of a fact-finding visit to Lebanon.
The 10 blacks, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), conferred with Lebanese President Elias Sarkis and toured Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut.
Fauntroy predicted that a year from now it will be U.S. national policy to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Currently the U.S. government adheres to a commitment to Israel that it will not deal with the PLO as long as the guerrilla organization does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
The U.S. group is scheduled to meet with PLO chief Yasser Arafat when he returns from a North African tour. Arafat invited the U.S. blacks to visit him in Beirut following the resignation of U.N. ambassador Andrew Young last month because of his unauthorized meeting with the PLO's observer at the United Nations.
The incident sparked interest by U.S. black groups in developing relations with the PLO, which is eager to gain a power base in the United States.
"At this time next year, I believe it will be our national policy to communicate uith the PLO and to urge all parties in the Middle East to recognize the right of others to exist as we recognize their rights to exist," Fauntroy said.
The delegation was taken to Sarkis' presidential palace in PLO cars with protection provided by members of the Syrian-dominated Arab peacekeeping force, according to Hatem Husseini, an official in the PLO information office in Washington. He came with the group from Washington.
SCLC President Rev. Joseph Lowery told journalists after meeting Sarkis, "We are convinced that the ultimate solution for Lebanon and the Middle East is for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to be secure in their respective homelands and to live in peace with justice as brothers and sisters under the fatherhood of God."
Fauntroy said he would take his findings to the Carter administration.
"One of our purposes as a Christian Leadership Conference (Group) is to take the direct actions we have in opening direct channels of communications with the PLO in the hope that our government will follow a similar policy," he said.
As time goes on, Americans will understand the balanced appeal we are making to both the PLO and the Israelis to end the violence and to recognize the right of the other to exist," Fauntroy said. He said that the process had already begun and was gaining momentum.
While touring a Palestinian-run furniture factory near the Bourj Barajneh refugee camp, members helped themselves to sweets and refreshments, repeating enthusiastically the Arabic "shukran" (thank you) to their Palestinian hosts.
Later in the afternoon, the delegation was taken to the densely populated Palestinian Chatila refugee camp on the southeastern fringe of Beirut, uhere an estimated 52,000 Palestinians live.
Three Palestinian women stopped and asked who the strangers were. A journalist explained that they were a group of Americans who had come "to see where you live."
One of the women cried out, "They are taking pictures of where we live so the Israelis can come and bomb us later." Visibly shaken by a translation of her comments, delegation member Ron Walters, professor of political science at Howard University, said, "I don't blame them. They see the evidence of U.S. bombs."
Another incident marring the visit was an argument that arose over a photograph taken of Lowery with a Palestinian boy cluthing an imitation wooden Kalashnikov rifle. SCLC official Al Sampson of Chicago told journalists after the photographer had given him the film following a heated argument, "We do not want to let anyone feel for a moment that we believe in violence on any level-- not a little child carrying a dummy gun or anything."