Plight of Palestinian Christians Lamented

They Suffer Twofold Discrimination, Holy See Tells U.N.

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NEW YORK, NOV. 2, 2005 ( The Holy See lamented the difficulties Christians face in the Holy Land, when it addressed the United Nations on international aid to Palestinian refugees.

After acknowledging the work carried out by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, lamented the Christian communities’ worsening conditions of life.

«We are obliged this year to draw attention to the growing difficulties faced by Palestinian Christians who, although they belong to a faith born in that very land, are sometimes viewed with suspicion by their neighbors,» Archbishop Migliore said Tuesday.

«Doubly discriminated against, it is hardly surprising to learn that this tiny group — less than 2% of the local Palestinian population — is particularly marginalized,» he observed.

«All Palestinians have the right to fair and fair-minded treatment from their peers and from the recognized authorities alike,» the papal representative insisted. «Religious extremism of any kind, implicated in attacks, abuse and harassment of Christians in the area around Bethlehem recently, is not to be tolerated.

«No matter who is targeted by violence and bigotry, such acts are a stain on the conscience of peoples.»

The observer from the Holy See suggested that solutions «will be found by local leaderships which will address the needs of all the members of local communities who suffer from violence.»

Wall woes

Archbishop Migliore said that of «ongoing concern» is «the security wall which cuts access to some Palestinians’ lands and water sources, as well as to employment, commerce, education, medical care and freedom of worship.»

«My delegation freely acknowledges the right of all peoples to live in peace and security,» he added. «On the other hand, we believe that the Holy Land is in greater need of bridges than of walls.

«In the hope that the many problems of the region will be resolved by negotiation and dialogue, my delegation underlines that a lasting solution will include the question of the Holy City of Jerusalem.»

In light of the numerous incidents of violence and the challenge to free movement posed by the security wall, the Holy See appealed for «internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.»

Echoing words of Benedict XVI, the archbishop said he hoped «that Jerusalem will one day be ‘a home of harmony and peace’ for all believers.»

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