By Katie Ascough - 18 January, 2020
Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe were among an international group of bishops who visited the Holy Land from 11-16 January last. Each year, the Holy Land Co-ordination meets and travels to the region with a focus on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion. The aim is to act in solidarity with the Christian community as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure. For twenty years the group has met at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.
“Every year we come to encounter and hear the people of the Holy Land. We are inspired by their enduring resilience and faith in a worsening situation,” the bishops said.
In a recent message, the local Catholic bishops lamented the international community’s failure to help realise justice and peace in the place of Christ’s birth. In their plea they challenge governments to do more to meet responsibilities for upholding international law and protecting human dignity, warning that people are facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution”. The bishops on pilgrimage said that they witnessed this reality first-hand.
In the same message, the local bishops have sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable”. The report of the international bishops said that the political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses and a profound humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “We were welcomed by families whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water,” the visiting bishops noted.
“Amid these circumstances, we are moved by the sacrifice of religious sisters, lay people and priests who are reaching out with respect to every side, in order to build a better future for all. They offer vital services, especially education, job opportunities and care for the most vulnerable people. We give thanks for their witness.
“We encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities,” the bishops said.
Finally, the bishops implored foreign governments to help build a “new political solution rooted in human dignity for all”. One thing each person can certainly do is join with the bishops in their conclusion: “We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”