Gift of peace in the troubled Holy Land

28 Jul 2014   |   Emergency Relief

Buildings destroyed after attacks in Gaza July 2014

“We still believe that the best gift the Lord and the world could give this Holy Land is the gift of peace.” - Fr Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem.

Those words were spoken just a couple months ago when the international board of the Caritas network made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in support of peace and the work of Caritas Jerusalem.

Today, as we witness another surge of violence in the troubled region, we pray that tolerance and compassion will deliver the gift of peace for communities affected by decades of unrest in Gaza.

Reflecting at the time of the visit, Paul O’Callaghan (CEO of Caritas Australia) said he was privileged to join a group of three bishops, six priests, and nine lay members of the Caritas network on the board’s first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The group visited many holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and other Palestinian towns, learning much about the situation for Christian and Muslim communities along the way.

In light of the current conflict in Gaza, and the international Caritas network’s call for peace, Mr O’Callaghan shared the following reflection:

"The local Christian leaders we met explained the disadvantage and discrimination their communities have experienced since the occupation of Palestine in 1948 and then during the 1967 war.

Nearly 20 years of negotiations about the future of Palestine still offer little prospect of true or lasting peace in those communities marginalised by decades of conflict and intolerance. In stark contrast to Jesus’ vision of a full life for all (John 10:10), we witnessed a needless denigration of human dignity in this troubled Holy Land.

Our pilgrimage group was distressed by restrictions on people’s movements, disrespect for dignity, and the perception that the Church has not supported the communities’ efforts to achieve justice and peace. 

At the same time, we recognised the resilience of those we met and the way in which Christians and Muslims have become more supportive of one another's communities. The Caritas network actively supports Muslim and Christian communities in the occupied territories.

Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land just one week after our pilgrimage highlighted the potential for progress towards peace and helped to address the concerns about the Church's limited support for justice in the Holy Land.

Hopefully, over time we will see a return to the respect for human dignity, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and equal access to water and other resources that we know can be achieved in the Holy Land. And at this time of heightened conflict, we pray that the Pope's invitation to the leaders of Palestine and Israel to pray with him at the Vatican will bear fruit."

The current crisis

The Caritas network has now launched an emergency program to assist thousands of families by providing medical supplies, medicines, psychosocial support, food and other non-food items such as blankets, hygiene kits and fuel for generators. 

“Most of the victims are children, women and old people. We strongly believe that the Church of Jesus Christ cannot remain silent; we cannot stand aside and do nothing,” said Fr Raed Abusahlia, President of Caritas Jerusalem. .   

If you would like to support Caritas Australia's emergency work to help us respond to disasters whenever and wherever they may occur, donate to our Emergency Response Fund >

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