One week ago today, Pope Francis called for peace in the “increasingly unacceptable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a speech at the palace of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
In his speech, the Pope:
a) spoke of good relations between the Vatican and the “State of Palestine”
b) called for the existence of a two-state solution
c) referred to Abbas as “a peacemaker” (see picture below of the Pope and Abbas embracing)
Pope Francis said specifically, “For decades the Middle East has known the tragic consequences of a protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal. Even in the absence of violence, the climate of instability and a lack of mutual understanding have produced insecurity, the violation of rights, isolation and the flight of entire communities, conflicts, shortages and sufferings of every sort.”
He continued: “In expressing my closeness to those who suffer most from this conflict, I wish to state my heartfelt conviction that the time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable. For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security. The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”
As part of his visit, Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at a wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, offering prayers amidst the graffiti painted there.
I thank God that Pope Francis brought attention to the separation barrier – “the wall.”
I have been to this wall many times. While it may have increased security for the Jewish people, “the wall” has caused innumerable hardships for the Palestinian people.
For just a moment, imagine yourself being a Palestinian living in Bethlehem. You need a permit to go to (or through) Jerusalem:
to visit relatives or friends. . .
to go to a job or to transact business. . .
to farm your land or take care of your olive trees. . .
to attend a college or receive vocational training. . .
to be at a wedding or a funeral. . .
to make it to a hospital to receive medical care or even to have your baby. . .
to worship at a different mosque or church.
A Palestinian friend of mine here in Michigan recently heard that his aged mother was very sick and possibly dying in Israel. Though his own wife was about to have their third child, he went immediately to Israel to try to see his mother before she died. When he arrived in the West Bank of Israel from Jordan, he had to apply for a permit to go to Jerusalem to see his mother.
His first attempt was unsuccessful.
Imagine. . . you have to have a permit to go to see your dying mother!
Thankfully – in this case – he finally got the permit, made it to Jerusalem, and took his mother home to die with her large family surrounding her.
And some Americans wonder why Palestinians want their own “State.” They just want what all of us want – freedom.
God cares about the suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people.
I do too.
Thank you, Pope Francis, for calling attention to this people, this wall, these injustices.