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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS OP-ED

Catholic Bishops: Two wrongs don’t make a right; lives of both Israelis and Palestinians are precious

Catholic Bishops: Two wrongs don’t make a right; lives of both Israelis and Palestinians are precious
President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka. (Photo: Supplied)

In a statement about the Middle East crisis, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference called for a de-escalation of the war, and peace.

The president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, in a statement released on Tuesday, said: “Hamas’s killing of ordinary Israeli civilians can never be justified, even by the cause Hamas claims to be fighting for. Equally, the hurt, anger and sense of obligation by the Israeli government to avenge Hamas’s acts and prevent it from causing further harm does not justify the means they apply towards this end as it results in the suffering and death of innocent Palestinians.

“Two wrongs do not make a right; the innocent lives of both the Israelis and Palestinians are precious and must be protected.”

The bishops called for a de-escalation of the war, and peace. “We particularly request an immediate restoration of food supply, electricity and healthcare to the Palestinian people in Gaza, which are basic necessities of life,” Sipuka said.  

“We pray that our shared appreciation for the preciousness of life will see us finding a peaceful solution to the longstanding tension between these two nations.”   

The bishop affirmed Israel’s “right and obligation” to protect its citizens.  

Sipuka said the bishops noted that the “bombardment [of Gaza] is causing the suffering and death of a huge number of civilian Palestinians with no connection to Hamas activities”. 

The bishops appealed for a ceasefire and a “humane way” of dealing with the current situation to eliminate further suffering and deaths.  

Asked about the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference reaction to the government’s position that Israel is an apartheid state, Sipuka said: “The bishops have not discussed the government’s position on Israel.” 

The secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Father Hugh O’Connor, said the relationship between the Catholic and Jewish communities in South Africa was cordial, and they generally met at interfaith gatherings.  

“The Catholic Church, in its relationship with non-Christian religions, is guided by Nostra aetate — a document that describes the Church’s relationship with people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths,” O’Connor said.  

In Nostra aetate, the Catholic Church condemns anti-Semitism “directed against Jews at any time and by anyone”. The document says that the Church regards those of the Muslim faith “with esteem”.   

In a letter to the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the newly created cardinal Archbishop Stephen Brislin said, “The violence, destruction and loss of life is deplorable and horrifying. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones, those who have been maimed, those who are displaced and those who have been taken hostage.” 

Brislin warned that although “there are those who seek facile interpretations of the conflict, there is no single narrative that captures the full context of what is presently happening in the Holy Land”. 

The cardinal said that “the particular situation in the Holy Land is of special concern” because “it is the land so spiritually tied to our faith”. He also said that the conflict had the potential to have “terrible international consequences and could easily lead to a frightening escalation of violence”.  

For many years, Brislin has been part of the Holy Land Coordination group that periodically visits Israel to show solidarity with the oppressed Christians there.  

He told his flock in Cape Town that over the years, on his many visits, “I have sat around the table with Jewish families in Jerusalem sharing Shabbat meals or as I drank coffee with Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza and heard of their longing for liberation, I have seen how many seek a just peace.”  

The Cardinal warned, “Peace will never be attained through the barrel of a gun and it is the peacemakers who keep the flame of hope alive in what seems like an increasingly dark situation.” DM

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ (entered the Jesuits 2001; ordained 2006) is the Director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    Remind me again where the Catholic Church was the last time this many Jewish lives were at stake?

    “After 1945, the silence of the church leadership and the widespread complicity of “ordinary Christians” compelled leaders of both churches to address issues of guilt and complicity during the Holocaust—a process that continues internationally to this day.”
    Author(s): United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

  • ilike homophones says:

    yes

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