Holy Land: Catholic nun says: 'we are called to hope'

A Catholic nun has said there is little room for optimism in the search of a solution to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip but added that there is room for hope.

Speaking at Wednesday's  launch of an independent medical and forensic report on potential human rights violations during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last December and January, Sr Alicia Vacas told activists, doctors and journalists:  “we are called to hope”.

“We can have hope and keep working even if we are not optimistic.  We have reasons to hope,” she added.

The nun was part of a five member delegation that went into Gaza shortly after the end of the 22 day invasion to collect evidence of potential human rights violations by forensically testing samples from the environment and taking testimony from medical professionals and the injured.

She became the first and only outside researcher to gain access to the hundreds of injured taken to Egypt for treatment because she was a member of the Comboni missionary community which has a convent in Cairo.  Her status meant she did not have to seek permission to get into the hospitals or approach the Palestinian evacuees.

Those interviews gave the report, commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, a unique perspective on the types of injuries, such as an unprecedented number of ‘clean’ amputations and ‘burns to the bone’, which overwhelmed hospitals inside the Strip and in Egypt.

“When Alicia went into the hospital and interviewed her first survivor, the rest of the hospital came to her because they wanted people to know what had happened,” added Miri Weingarten of PHR-Israel.

Sr Alicia will be doing a speaking tour about the report with PHR for the next week before returning to her work in Palestine.

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