Europe in the Holy Land

After the visit of European and North-American bishops

The Holy Land Coordination bishops have closely followed the situation of Christians and the peace process in the region where it all began, on behalf of European and Northern American bishops, for the past ten years. Having taken part in the four-day visit (10-14 January) of the bishops’ delegation, a series of reflections are due.There is something strange in our world. Nowadays, more than in the past, we have the possibility of learning more of what is happening on our planet and thus contribute to its amelioration. The Declaration of Human Rights indicates the just criteria in the evaluation of situations and helps us to improve or adjust wrongdoings. Nonetheless, peace strives to arrive. The Holy Land is not the only place in the world marked by fear in an atmosphere of war. Politicians, leaders, and us all, ought to pledge to reach a solution. Jesus Christ has taught us that God makes no distinction between individuals, and that everyone is called to be His sons. Peace will become a reality when everyone will be able to live in security and freedom, and when dignity will be acknowledged. There can be no compromises on this: all men and women have equal dignity for the simple fact of existing. There is no need to grant them dignity. Dignity is not the result of an agreement or a convention. It is a simple fact! Human dignity is at the basis of everything, especially if we wish to create a human society in truth. In the course of history, every time that someone considered a group of individuals more worthy of dignity than others peace was never attained. Wars, slavery, terrorism and the exploitation of a population are possible when we forget that everyone is equally worthy of equal dignity. The situation in the Holy Land, where different peoples and religions have been living side by side for centuries, is not without hope. We ought to remember that these places are the cradle of the Church. But we also need to bear in mind that a community of Christian families has been living in these places since the times of Jesus. They are not foreigners; they come from the Holy Land. This is the place where they have always lived. Today these families’ presence is threatened. Difficulties in living their every day life and the lack of respect and freedom are unsustainable. And many decide to leave. If they should all leave would we still have a reason to go to Jerusalem? Why should we want to go there, to visit stones…? It is evident that if this state of affairs were to endure it would be a lose-lose situation. When division is sought in the place of dialogue then society can have no hope. Indeed the tragedy of drug-addiction, affecting both Israelis and Palestinians, shows that this hatred has created a monster. And the rest of the world, Europe included, is distracted. After having encountered real people, Jews and Palestinians who long for peace; after having visited the Christian communities that relentlessly proclaim they faith in a state of suffering and feel they are helpless; having seen the students in the university of Bethlehem who know that their fellow students in Gaza are prevented from returning to school but nonetheless did not give up hopes in a peaceful world, and after having prayed in the Holy Land, we feel especially close to all those living in this land. I therefore wish to ask those who have the power to change the state of affairs: do erect bridges, do seek reconciliation. May Europe be an ever more active player in this field. It is clear that hatred leads to more hatred while love leads to peace. Given that each human person, male and female, was created to the image and likeness of God from the moment of conception, everyone must be acknowledged as the bearer of full rights. And thus the grammar of human relations must be justice and love. Wars cannot be won if peace doesn’t win. And peace can win only when people are respected and loved. The contribution of hope that Europe is called to offer in a land marked by infinite suffering and clashes ought to be viewed within this perspective. The message of EU and USA bishops at the end of the recent visit to the Holy Land is a word to the wise and an encouragement to the commitment of European citizens and their institutions. The Synod for the Middle East, due to be held October 10-24 2010, whose “Lineamenta” were presented in Rome on January 19, will constitute another major occasion to reconfirm the voice and the presence of peace of the Church across the world.

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