2002-05-24
Letter to the Counsul General of Israel on the Tension at the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem

Letter to the Counsul General of Israel on

the Tension at the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem
 
We, from the Catholic community in Hong Kong, write to express our earnest concern on the continuous conflict between your armed forces and the Palestinians, especially the tension at the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem.
 
Since April 2 when 200 Palestinians took refuge in the Church, the Israeli army has besieged the basilica and cut off the supply of electricity, water and provisions to the site, which includes 35 Franciscan friars, four Franciscan nuns and some Orthodox priests and Armenian monks. The situation inside the church compound is becoming unlivable and intolerable, as food and supplies run out and the surrounding troops prevent the delivery of new supplies. There is an urgent need for a peaceful solution to end the stalemate.
 
According to the Franciscans in Bethlehem, they were under heavy pressure from Israeli officials to leave the Church. However, the friars have resisted that pressure, pointing out that the shrine is their home and they had a mission of ministering to pilgrims in the Holy Land. Meanwhile, they gave their full support to the notion that the Palestinian gunmen might be evacuated from the Church of Nativity, and taken in a convoy to another spot on the West Bank. Thus the lives, safety and dignity of all the people involved, armed or unarmed, would be saved.
 
We, hereby, support the urgent appeal of the Franciscans in Bethlehem, that immediate humanitarian intervention is needed in the Church of the Nativity, so as to restore supplies of food, water, electricity and medicine. In order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe which would inevitably lead to a worsening of the hatred between the parties, we also request the Palestinians be allowed to leave the building of the Nativity and their lives be guaranteed. Such a solution would open up a fresh glimmer of hope for dialogue, the only way to procure a civilized and co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians and which would guarantee an honorable way out to all parties concerned.
 
We pray a peaceful settlement of the conflict will come soon and no more sacrifice of lives among Israelis and Palestinians be happened again. Enclosed please find 3,360 signatures being collected in the Catholic Church supporting the above appeal. Please kindly send our message to your government.
 
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
Order of Friars Minors in Hong Kong
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese      


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