Bishops call for action after fifty years of occupation in the Holy Land

Fifty years of occupation demands action, is the call of the Holy Land Coordination bishops at the end of this year's meeting.

Describing the occupation as a scandal that violates the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, the bishops called for an end to the suffering on both sides. While many people in the Holy Land strive for reconciliation, most have now lived their entire lives under occupation, with its polarising social segregation. The bishops implored Christians in their respective countries to recognise their own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.

The Coordination, which is made up of bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa, has met in the Holy Land with the encouragement of the Holy See every year since 1998 to support the local Church. The Coordination's presence is a reminder to the Christians of the Holy Land they are not forgotten and enables the bishops to witness the reality of occupation, so more informed questions can be asked of the politicians and diplomats in their respective countries in the search for a just peace.

Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Holy Land Coordination, said it was important that all Christians took responsibility for what is happening in the Holy Land.

"We must never become accustomed to what is happening in the Holy Land. It is a scandal that requires all of us to take responsibility.

"We must pray for peace for everyone in this land; two peoples and three faiths. We must all make ourselves aware of the situation. Having informed ourselves of the reality, we must then take action, by supporting the charities active in the Holy Land, by coming on pilgrimage and by contacting our elected representatives.

"It is the responsibility of all of us to seek a just peace and in this 50th anniversary of occupation, that search must intensify."

For the full text of the final communique of the Holy Land Coordination 2017 see below.

Holy Land Coordination 2017 final communiqué

Fifty years of occupation demands action

For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed.

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 recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.

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. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity.

We all have a responsibility to oppose the construction of settlements. This 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.

We all have a responsibility to provide assistance for the people of Gaza, who continue to live amid a man-made humanitarian catastrophe. They have now spent a decade under blockade, compounded by a political impasse caused by ill-will on all sides.

We all have a responsibility to encourage non-violent resistance which, as Pope Francis reminds us, has achieved great changes across the world. 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.

We all have a responsibility to promote a two-state solution. The Holy See has emphasised that "if Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side, reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders, peace will remain a distant dream and security an illusion."

We all have a responsibility to help the local Church, its agencies, volunteers and NGOs. In the most testing circumstances they show great resilience and carry out life-changing work. It is our faith in God that gives us hope. It is the witness of Christians in the Holy Land and especially the young people we met that inspires us.

The Bible tells us: "You will declare this fiftieth year to be sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the country's inhabitants" [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.

Bishop Declan Lang, England and Wales (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
Archbishop Riccardo Fontana, Italy
Bishop Stephen Ackermann, Germany
Bishop Peter Bürcher, Bishops' Conference of the Nordic Countries
Bishop Oscar Cantú, United States of America
Bishop Christopher Chessun, Church of England
Bishop Michel Dubost, France
Bishop Lionel Gendron, Canada
Bishop Felix Gmür, Switzerland
Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community
Bishop William Kenney, England and Wales
Bishop William Nolan, Scotland

With the support of:
Mgr. Duarte da Cunha, Council of the Catholic Bishops' Conferences in Europe
Fr Peter-John Pearson, South African Bishops' Conference