Bishops Urge US to Help in Gaza

Say Violence Can’t Bring Justice and Peace

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 1, 2009 ( The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace is calling for a high-level U.S. representative to be sent to the Middle East to help negotiate peace between Israel and Hamas.

This appeal came in a letter Tuesday from Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

«The rocket attacks on Israel must be stopped, and Israel’s military attacks on Gaza halted,» the bishop wrote. «Our [bishops’] conference believes that more than words are needed. We ask you to urge the president to send a high-level personal representative to the region immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire and make provision for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.»

Today, as the fighting continued for the sixth day in the Middle East, more than 400 Gazans had been killed.

«The toll in human deaths and suffering, the negative effects on progress in negotiations for peace and the risks of wider war caused by this escalation of violence cannot be allowed to continue,» Bishop Hubbard exhorted. «Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called on the international community to help Israelis and Palestinians to discard the ‘dead end’ of violence and pursue instead ‘the path of dialogue and negotiations.’ Immediate, visible and decisive U.S. leadership is urgently needed.»

The prelate lamented that at a time when Christians’ attention is «drawn naturally to the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, it is tragic that innocent civilians are once again the victims of armed conflict and a humanitarian crisis.»

«A ceasefire and humanitarian relief are indispensable initial steps on the road to a two-state solution — a secure Israel living in peace with a viable Palestinian state — with justice and peace for both peoples,» he concluded.

Ecumenical appeal

Meanwhile, from Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh, joined his voice to that of his counterpart from the Church of Ireland, Alan Harper.

In a Dec. 30 statement, the religious leaders jointly expressed their «distress and deepening concern for all innocent victims.»

They said that after a visit to the Holy Land earlier in 2007 as «pilgrims together for peace,» they «have followed the unfolding tragedy of Gaza. We call upon the authorities in both Israel and Gaza immediately to disengage and cease all hostilities to enable a permanent ceasefire to be negotiated. Only when violence has ceased will it be possible to begin to negotiate a peace that will last.»

The Christian leaders called for «all people of faith to pray for all caught up in the conflict.»

And, they added, «We also call upon the international community and particularly the United States and the European Union to bring maximum influence to bear to end all violence immediately and to create conditions that will lead to a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike.»

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