Pax Christi to hold prayer vigil for Holy Land outside Downing Street

 Members of the British section of Pax Christi, the international Catholic movement for Peace, will gather outside Downing Street tomorrow (Wednesday) for a vigil of readings and prayers on the theme 'breaking down walls'. A delegation will present Mr Tony Blair with postcards and a letter from the Pax Christi campaign "People of the Holy Land need Bridges Not Walls". Members of the delegation include Fr Giovanni Scudiero, member of Pax Christi International Executive Committee and 6th form students from Our Lady's Catholic High School in Hackney. The 9 November marks the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Pax Christi have chosen this day to urge the British Government to do all it can to persuade the Government of Israel to dismantle the separation wall between Israel and Palestine. In their letter to Mr Blair, Pax Christi state: "We come today to petition you on behalf of our partners and friends in Palestine. We present you with this letter and these cards, a symbol of the hundreds of cards sent to you by our supporters over the past year. As a movement dedicated to peace, non-violence and reconciliation, we believe that the much-needed peace between the peoples of Israel and Palestine will only come about by building of trust and respect within and between communities and by addressing the injustices created by the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. We believe that the separation wall creates moral and legal impediments to peace. It will not bring the human security which the people of Israel and Palestine long for. Many of our partners in Bethlehem and other towns and villages are now surrounded by the Wall. They describe themselves as being walled-in or living in an open prison. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, who is also President of Pax Christi International has, with other Church leaders from Jerusalem, spoken against the wall. They say that the wall splinters the Palestinian community in many pieces and makes it impossible to maintain normal family, economic and human relations. This inhuman and intolerable situation can only lead to greater frustration and alienation of communities." This is an international Pax Christi campaign against the separation wall. Sections in Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium have also had postcard campaigns addressed to their own Governments and the Government of Israel. In 2004 the International Court of Justice advisory opinion stated that the construction of the wall in occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law. This puts an obligation on all states not to provide aid or assistance to the illegal situation that results from the construction of the wall. The Pax Christi Vigil and Delegation at Downing Street is from 3.30 - 4.30pm on Wednesday, 9 November. A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, Dan Shaham, told ICN: "The security wall has been able to save thousands of lives - both Palestinian and Israeli. Israeli didn't wish to have fences between us and indeed we lived for years without such fences. It was the Palestinian terror campaign that drove us to erect this fence. Thousands of people are moving freely (through the wall) between Israel and Palestine through the designated passages. The existence of this fence has allowed us to remove dozens of checkpoints within the terrority." When asked about Palestinian women who have died in childbirth on the way to hospital, possibly partly because of long transport delays caused by the wall, he said this happened to women all over the world who had to go to other countries for medical treatment.

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