The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference which comprises Bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland have denounced the violence in Gaza and described as absolutely abhorrent that the Christian community of Iraq is suffering martyrdom and expulsion from their country.
The Bishops’ statement issued by the Archbishop of Pretoria, Most Rev. William Slattery OFM, says that August marks 100 years since the beginning of the Great War: The First World War. According to the Bishops, it would appear that the lessons of the tragic consequences of that Great War have not been learnt by humankind. “The cry ‘no more war!’ has gone unheeded and millions continue to suffer and die,” the Bishops say.
The Bishops note that in different parts of Africa, in Iraq and Syria and now in Gaza the world is faced with stark and horrifying evidence of the moral bankruptcy of modern warfare. By its very nature: in situations and with weapons where no distinction is possible between combatants and non-combatants and where superpowers are stymied by lone suicide bombers, modern warfare shows itself to be obsolete. War that has become interminable – or self-perpetuating as in Gaza – solves nothing; it never reconciles but only succeeds in entrenching hatred and division. Whether perpetrated by Israeli or by Palestinian, the use of violence will never bring a solution to the problems of the Holy Land.
The Bishops have therefore determined that the Israeli offensive against Gaza and the firing of Palestinian rockets into Israel must stop. They call for the recognition of an end to structural forms of violence such as the illegal settlements by Israel, the Wall, the checkpoints, restriction of Palestinian movement and the lack of security on both sides. “For as long as these continue”, say the Bishops, “there is little hope for any lasting peace. These and other root problems must be engaged and resolved”.
In all, the Bishops appeal to the leaders of Palestine and Israel to put an end to the war, to cease the violence and to stop killing each other. They also call upon these leaders to commit themselves to respecting the fundamental dignity and rights of their adversaries. The Bishops emphasise that this “can (only) be done by resorting to dialogue which comprises real negotiations and the building of a lasting peace”.
On Christians in Iraq, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference says it is absolutely abhorrent that the Christian community of Iraq, a tradition that goes back almost 2000 years, is suffering expulsion from their country and martyrdom.
As Catholic bishops of Southern Africa the Bishops plead with members of the Islamic State to exercise religious tolerance in Iraq. The Bishops further assure the persecuted Christians of Iraq of their deepest concern and pledge never to forget their plight. They have also strongly deplored the utter destruction of ancient dioceses, vibrant parishes and faithful families simply because of their loyalty to the Christian faith. They label what is happening in Iraq as a crime against humanity.
In their statement, the Bishops have told other religious traditions in Iraq who suffer the same fate as the Christian community that their hearts and prayers go out to them as well. “We admire many of the great religious teachings of Islam, particularly their care for the poor and the needy. We call on faithful Muslims who believe in our common humanity to plead with those driven by extremism to cease their oppression of deeply religious communities and to seek that peace which Islam itself endeavors to promote,” the Bishops conclude their statement.
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