‘We must never become accustomed’ to the Holy Land occupation
“Our Coordination has called for justice and peace every year since 1998, yet the suffering continues. So this call must get louder. As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognize our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action,” Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, chair of the Holy Land Coordination, wrote in a Jan. 19 statement. The statement was signed by another 11 bishops, including Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces.
The communique marked the conclusion of an annual week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land by the group, made up of bishops from Europe, North America, and South Africa. The Holy Land Coordination is encouraged in its work by the Holy See as it supports the local Church in Palestine and Israel.
“For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis,” Bishop Lang said. “This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed”
“So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarising social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation,” Bishop Lang wrote. “Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity.”
The bishop also stated that we have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are home to some 600,000 Israelis. Under international law, the settlements are considered illegal, though Israel disputes this.
The settlers’ “de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians in areas such as Hebron and East Jerusalem but, as the UN recently recognised, also imperils the chance of peace,” Bishop Lang stated.
Turning to the situation of the Gaza Strip, he said Gazans, “who continue to live amid a man-made humanitarian catastrophe,” need assistance. “They have now spent a decade under blockade, compounded by a political impasse caused by ill-will on all sides.”
He continued to say apathy can never be a response to the scandal, and it is the job of every Christian to help the local Church, as well as its agencies, volunteers, and non-governmental organizations.
“We all have a responsibility to encourage non-violent resistance. This is particularly necessary in the face of injustices such as the continued construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land including the Cremisan Valley.”
The proposed Israeli security barrier route effectively confiscates Palestinian land, and compromises the ministry of Christian institutions and the rights of Christian landowners.
Bishop Lang added that “we all have a responsibility to promote a two-state solution,” noting that the Holy See has said, “if Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side, reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders, peace will remain a distant dream and security an illusion.”
Bishop Lang ended the communiqué with a biblical quote about the Jubilee, the ancient practice of the Kingdom of Israel of liberating slaves and forgiving debts every 50 years: “You will declare this fiftieth year to be sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the country’s inhabitants,” he said, quoting Leviticus 25:10.
“During this fiftieth year of occupation we must pray for the liberty of everyone in the Holy Land and practically support all those working to build a just peace,” he concluded. (CNA)