We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pope Francis' Address to Aid Agencies for the Oriental Church

Pope Francis' Address to Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches
"Your works of relief and assistance in nations most affected by these crises respond to basic needs, particularly of those who are powerless and most vulnerable, as well as the many young people tempted to leave their homeland. "

Vatican City, June 26, 2014 (Zenit.org) | 331 hits

Pope Francis today received the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches – ROACO.

Here below is the the official English version of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.


Dear Friends,

A month ago, I had the grace of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Today this meeting with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and with the representatives of R.O.A.C.O. allows me to reaffirm my closeness to all the Churches of the East.  My pilgrimage was a great source of consolation, but also of encouragement and a renewed sense of responsibility for the advancement of full unity among Christians and of dialogue between religions.

I thank the Cardinal Prefect, who has recalled the various events of the pilgrimage.  With great affection I also greet each of you and the communities to which you belong.  Together let us give thanks to God and pray that the Apostolic Journey will, like a good seed, bring forth abundant fruit.  It is the Lord who will make that fruit blossom and grow, if we but entrust ourselves to him in prayer and press forward, despite every difficulty, along the paths pointed out to us by the Gospel.

The olive tree which I planted in the Vatican Gardens together with the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Presidents of Israel and Palestine, is a symbol of that peace which is secure and enduring only because it is cultivated by many hands.  Those who would cultivate the plant of peace must never forget that God alone gives the growth.  True peace, the peace which the world cannot give, is a gift to us from Jesus Christ.  For all the grievous attacks it endures today, peace can always flourish again.  I am grateful that you continue to “make peace grow” through charity, which is the ultimate aim of all your organizations.  With unity and charity Christ’s disciples strive to be peacemakers everywhere, in all peoples and communities, and to overcome persistent forms of discrimination, starting with those based on religion.

First among those called to be peacemakers are our brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches, together with their pastors.  Hoping at times against all hope, remaining in the place of their birth where the Gospel of the incarnate Son of God was first proclaimed, may they experience the blessedness reserved to those who are peacemakers: “they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).  And may they always feel the support of the universal Church and never falter in their conviction that the fire of Pentecost, the power of Love, can halt the fire of arms, hatred and vengeance.  Their tears and their anguish are ours, as well as their hope!  We can express this through our solidarity, if it is one which is concrete and effective, capable of ensuring that the international community upholds the rights of individuals and peoples.

In a special way, I join you in telling our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, their bishops and priests, that the Catholic Church is close to them.  The Church is likewise close to our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and the Middle East, but also to the beloved people of Ukraine in the critical situation in which they find themselves, and to the people of Romania.  This closeness and concern is expressed in the works which your agencies carry out.  I urge you to continue your generous efforts to help them.  Your works of relief and assistance in nations most affected by these crises respond to basic needs, particularly of those who are powerless and most vulnerable, as well as the many young people tempted to leave their homeland.  And since communities of Eastern Christians are present worldwide, you are working everywhere to bring relief to the displaced and to refugees, restoring their dignity and their security in full respect for their identity and religious freedom.

Dear friends, I encourage you to pursue the goals set in your last Plenary Session, especially those regarding the training of young people and teachers.  At the same time, as the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the family fast approaches, I urge you to give priority to this area, letting yourselves be guided by the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (Nos. 58-61).  For the Holy Family of Nazareth, “which knew anxiety... as well as the pain of persecution, emigration and hard daily labour” teaches us “to trust the Father, to imitate Christ and to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit” (ibid., 59).  May the Mother of God accompany all families with her prayers, so that through them the Church, filled with the joy and strength of the Gospel, may always be a fruitful mother, anxious to strengthen the unity of the whole family of God.

Once again I thank you for your work.  To all of you I cordially impart my blessing.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-to-aid-agencies-for-the-oriental-churches

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Father Dave Smith, Australia: Iraq, ISIS and Syria – what’s going on?!

Father Dave in the Ommayad Mosque in Damascus
Father Dave in the Ommayad Mosque in Damascus

So many crazy things are happening in the hell that is flowing from Syria into Iraq at the moment that it’s hard to know what is going on. As Christians we need to make a meaningful response to all this bloodshed and violence but it’s so hard to know where to start. Let’s begin then by anchoring ourselves to one unambiguous truth – that the U.S. and NATO are NOT particularly concerned about what ISIS will do to Iraq, despite all rhetoric to the contrary.

Why can we start with this as our bedrock truth? Because the Lord Jesus gave us a guiding principle that allows us to cut through all the propaganda that clouds such issues: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). This is as true of countries as it is of individuals. It isn’t our rhetoric that indicates where our heart is. It’s our wallet!

If you want to know where the heart of the U.S. and NATO are don’t listen to their rhetoric. Rather, watch what they do and see where they invest their money! In the case of the ongoing violence across the Levant, there is no ambiguity. The U.S. has been continuing to pour money into their her allies in the region – Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and at least two out of three of the above are actively funding offshoots of Al Qaeda – ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra – and have been doing so for years!

Yes, there seems to have been a marked change in the policies of both NATO and the U.S. recently. While Britain had been portraying the ISIS team as the spiritual descendants of Robin Hood and his merry men engaged in ridding Sherwood Forrest of its evil prince, last week the Brits suddenly decided that ISIS was a terrorist organisation after all! Likewise, whereas the U.S. had been looking on happily as those merry rebels employed sophisticated American weaponry against Assad, now all the smiles have been replaced with looks of shock and horror as those weapons are turned upon Iraq!

But the shock is only apparent. The looks of horror are hollow. The rhetoric is empty. How do we know? Watch where they are putting their money! Are funds being withdrawn from ISIS’s main funding agencies? Are the Saudi’s being summoned to the Whitehouse to answer for their role in this new round of violence? Has anything of substance actually changed?

Some have suggested that this entire ISIS invasion has been orchestrated by the U.S. as another attempt to accomplish regime change in Syria. This is unlikely, I think. The U.S. no longer has the financial resources to roll out such an ingenious plan of destruction. Of course, even if ISIS’s latest movements were not supervised by the US they may have provided Washington with the opportunity to start reigning death on all the ISIS-controlled regions, including Syria. Happy days in the Whitehouse?

Well … I don’t think we are going to see the U.S. or NATO put troops on the ground any time soon. The outcry from their relative constituencies will be far too great to ignore and, again, who can afford this sort of foreign adventure at the moment? We may well see a token number of tomahawk missiles fired off in the general direction of ISIS and/or Assad – a sufficient number to satisfy the shareholders of the major arms manufacturers – but none of the major Western war-lords can manage another full-scale invasion right now.
Besides all this, regime change in Syria was never Obama’s end-game in the Levant any more than the defeat of ISIS is now. Iran was always the real target and this latest development may give the U.S. a direct shot at Iran!

For those who aren’t familiar with the war that’s been waged on Iran by the U.S. and her allies for the last 60-something years, here’s a bit of history:
  • In 1951 Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected Prime Minister of Iran and introduced a number of social reforms, including the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry, formerly under the control of the British since 1913.
  • In 1953 M16 and the CIA organised a coup that removed the democratically elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (the Shah) as Iran’s sole monarch. The Shah redirected control of Iran’s oil back to the Brits and the Americans.
  • The much-hated Shah was eventually overthrown in the Iranian revolution of 1979, establishing Iran as an Islamic state under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini, resulting in the US and Britain once again losing control of their oil!
The history of the relationship between the U.S. and Iran since that time has been one of unrelenting aggression of the former to the latter. Sometimes this has been overt, as with U.S. support for Saddam Husain in the Iran-Iraq war (that cost over a million lives). Sometimes this has been covert, such as through CIA efforts to fan the flames of sectarian division between Sunni and Shia (with the fabulous results that are now plain for all to see). Always it has been economic, with sanctions having been in place since the first days of the Iranian revolution – sanctions that not only inhibit trade but prevent the sick from accessing medicines and teenagers from accessing Facebook!

Why has Iran always been such a hated enemy of the U.S. ever since the days when it was a model secular democracy? It’s all there in Matthew chapter 6. The Iranians have treasure, and lots of it, and the U.S. and NATO have always had their hearts set on it! Moreover, if left unmolested, Iran would quickly become the most powerful economic force in the Levant, and so it poses an economic threat (nb. ‘economic’ not ‘existential’) to America’s and NATO’s middle-eastern allies.

Understanding the economic threat posed by Iran to the traditional economic power-players of the region is the key to comprehending much of the violence that has taken place across the region over the last generation, and most obviously in the last three years. In truth, no one in the West would have been remotely interested in the antics of Bashar Al Assad had Syria not been Iran’s closest ally? Likewise Hezbollah’s activities in the region would have gone largely unnoticed had she not been Iran’s only other ally. Iran is the target. The rest are just the supporting cast, and this latest development with ISIS and Iraq opens up entirely new opportunities for US-Iranian violence!

But of course the rhetoric is all the other way. There is talk of Washington and Tehran working together! It seems that both great powers now have a common enemy and that circumstances have serendipitously pulled them together to fight against terrorism side-by-side. Don’t believe it!

I’ll wager that the U.S. is not going to support Iranian military incursions into Iraq except perhaps by clapping and cheering (in a very muted kind of way). I don’t think this new era of US-Iranian cooperation is going to cost the US partner anything. Conversely, we may see Iran bleed to death economically through involvement in another protracted war, with Washington mouthing regret while continuing to indirectly fuel the furnace!

Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope and pray that I’m wrong. I hope and pray that Iran and the U.S. and all the countries represented in NATO will enter a new era of cooperation and dialogue and friendship. If you listen to the rhetoric that seems to be highly likely. But I haven’t seen anyone take their hands off their wallets yet!

Western money is still pouring into Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and through them into the pockets and cartridge-boxes of ISIS. Until I see a change in spending habits I’m not ready to believe in a change of heart.

Father Dave

Source: http://prayersforsyria.com/iraq-and-syria-whats-going-on/

Father Dave Smith, Australia: Israel/Palestine – Now is the Time!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

Thus Dickens begins ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. The cities he had in mind were London and Paris, and yet his words form a fitting introduction to the story of Jerusalem and Ramallah in 2014.

It is the worst of times!

As I write, the IDF is tightening its military grip on the West Bank and enacting raids and arrests on a scale not seen since the Second Intifada! Meanwhile settlements continue to flourish, Gazans struggle to find fresh water, Australia abandons all pretence of concern, and the negotiating table is empty.

In the corridors of power – in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Washington and Canberra – it is the worst of times for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. But this is not the whole story! Tectonic shifts have been taking place at the grass-roots, and what’s more the church is at the very heart of the shift!

The accomplishment of Pope Francis in bringing Abbas and Peres together for prayer in Vatican City was nothing short of miraculous! Who would have thought that such a thing could happen?!

The tangible effects of the Pope’s initiative might not yet be obvious but what Francis has done is to help accelerate a paradigm shift in the way the world is dealing with the Palestinian Occupation. Israeli and Palestinian peace is no longer simply a political issue. It is also a spiritual issue and a human issue, and as such it is something for which we all need to take responsibility!

The quest for justice and peace in Palestinian is becoming a truly democratic struggle, as seen in the ever-growing ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS). The BDS again moves the struggle for justice beyond the realm of professional politicians to a place where every business, every household and every individual can play a role in defunding the Palestinian Occupation!

And so it should not surprise us to see these two forces converge – spiritual leadership and BDS – with the United Methodists of America last week divesting from companies fuelling the Palestinian Occupation and with the Presbyterian Church of the USA about to follow in their wake!

It is the worst of times for political settlements being established from the top down, and yet the death of the American-led ‘peace process’ has opened up the way for ordinary people, and for the church in particular, to take the cause of Palestinian peace into their own hands!

In Biblical Greek the word ‘kairos’ means ‘time’ but not in the sense of clock-time. It means an opportune time – a God-given moment that needs to be taken hold of and taken full advantage of. Now is such a kairos in the struggle for Palestinian justice. Now is the time to act, now is the time to pray, now is the time for us to organise our churches to act and pray and to shout out to the world that our Palestinian sisters and brothers have suffered long enough!

If we – the Church of Jesus Christ – take hold of this time and work hand-in-hand with other grass-roots groups of concerned people around the world, I do believe this could turn out to be the best of times for Palestine, and a decisive turning point in the global struggle for justice and peace.

Father Dave
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Source: http://israelandpalestine.org/

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WCC: Equitable distribution of water is a key issue in West Bank and Gaza

Equitable distribution of water is a key issue in West Bank and Gaza
The EWN IRG members interacting with a Bedouin community near Hebron. © Asa Elfstrom/EWN

World Council of Churches, 18 June 2014 -“The Palestinian people thirst for water justice.” So claims a recently issued statement by a fact-finding group that this month visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza to better understand the critical issues of water and sanitation in Palestine.

Comprised of ten members of the international reference group of the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN), a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world, the group spent nearly ten days in the area, interacting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, non-governmental organizations, and church leaders.

The network is a global initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The EWN programme executive Dinesh Suna said, “The trip was an eye-opener for me. Never had I seen this glaring a level of disparity over water.”

“The problem is not scarcity as such,” he said. “Though an arid area, Israel and Palestine both receive enough precipitation. Ramallah gets more rain per year than London! But an average Palestinian there gets only 70 litres water per day, while the average Londoner gets around 150 litres per day, and the average Israeli over 300 litres per day.”

The statement focuses on the lack of clean water and adequate sanitation in the West Bank and Gaza. It notes the steep challenges facing Palestinian residents and farmers. Among other factors, it cites Israeli control over access to water in the West Bank, acquisition of precious aquifers by Israeli settlers, a complex and discouraging legal framework, prohibitions against Palestinian use of well water to raise crops and animals, and prohibitions against West Bank residents building essential new water supply and wastewater treatment plants.

“In Gaza,” the statement says, “the situation is even direr,” with microbial contamination of 80 percent of drinking water, 95 percent of groundwater rendered unusable by the intrusion of sea water, contaminated aquifers, and inadequate desalinization facilities.

“The Palestinian people are denied their internationally recognized human right to sufficient safe, accessible, and affordable water and adequate appropriate sanitation,” the statement concludes.

Just resolution of issues of equity and trust about water resources, the group urged, “would foster trust and dramatically increase the likelihood that Israel and Palestine could resolve the other difficult issues that currently separate them.”

To confront the “unholy reality” of water injustice in a landscape sacred to three great religious traditions, the statement argues, religious leaders and others must “convince those who wield the lesser powers of commerce and government that God demands all his children to do justice and seek peace.”

Full text of the EWN statement
More information about the Ecumenical Water Network

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

US Bishops, Iranian Religious Leaders Make Joint Declaration on Life, Dignity

Condemn 'All Forms of Disrespect for the Religious Traditions of Others'

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 18, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Catholics and Shia Muslims oppose actions that endanger the life, health, dignity and welfare of others, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to a joint declaration signed by U.S. bishops and Iranian religious leaders.

The June 14 declaration resulted from a dialogue between a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom, the preeminent center of religious scholarship in Iran, during a March 11-17 trip to Iran.

The dialogue sought to promote greater understanding and peace between Americans and Iranians. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Justice and Peace committee, led the U.S. delegation.

"As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others," said the joint declaration. "Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family."

They added: "Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons."

Signers of the declaration were Ayatollah Ali-Reza A'arafi, senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars and president of Al-Mustafa International University; Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the international affairs office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; and Bishop Pates.

Full text of the join declaration follows:

Joint Declaration

June 14, 2014 —16 Sha'bān 1435 AH

The belief in One God unites Jews, Christians and Muslims, and calls us to work for the common good of the whole human family. It is our conviction that human societies need moral guidance and that it is incumbent on us as religious leaders to share the ethical teachings that flow from our respective traditions.

Christianity and Islam cherish a common heritage that emphasizes, above all, love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community. We found this in our recent dialogue between Catholicism and Shia Islam. Both of our traditions reject as reprehensible all forms of transgression and injustice. We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity, or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

These foundational moral values unite us in raising fundamental moral questions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.

We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square. As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family. It is our mutual intention to engage in a sustained dialogue based on our shared values.

Source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/us-bishops-iranian-religious-leaders-make-joint-declaration-on-life-dignity

Iraq: Unintended Consequences and Lessons for U.S. Policy

Protesters hold Iraqi flags as they march during an April 9 anti-U.S. protest called by Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, Iraq, to mark the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in 2003. (CNS photo/Ceerwan Aziz, Reuters)

by Richard E. Pates

America Magazine, June 17, 2014 - In March 2013, I visited Iraq to attend the installation of Monsignor Louis Sako as the new Chaldean Catholic Patriarch. During that visit, I had a brief, yet startling, introduction to the country in the aftermath of dictatorship, invasion, occupation and civil war. The comments of my Iraqi interlocutors are engraved in my memory. Many insisted "the Americans ruined Iraq" and "the Americans ruined the church."
The tragedy of Iraq today could have been predicted given U.S. policy decisions in 2003. Many warned that the invasion would lead not only to the death and destruction inevitable in war, but to wider economic, political and social tragedies for Iraq, the United States and the global community. The Holy See and U.S. bishops were prominent among those voices, basing their concerns on the church's moral teaching on war, peace and international relations.
This review of the church's engagement with U.S. policy in Iraq is meant to help ensure that the moral obligations and limits on our nation’s conduct in the world will not again be ignored. In the future, we must ensure that our foreign policy is morally sound, cognizant of the consequences of U.S. action and thus better able to advance security, stability and a just peace.

Before March 2003, certainly, Iraq was a country in crisis. Its government was a threat to its own people and its neighbors. While decrying the harmful impact of U.N. economic sanctions on innocent Iraqis, the bishops wrote in November 1998: "The Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so."

The Morality of Going to War

The first grave U.S. failure was to ignore how complex, demanding and enduring its responsibility to Iraq would be after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and to plan accordingly. Despite warnings, senior U.S. leaders failed to meet their moral obligation to plan for, as far as possible, a successful occupation. The church was prominent among cautionary voices. In September 2002, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote President George W. Bush:

The use of force must have "serious prospects for success" and "must not produce evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2309). War against Iraq could have unpredictable consequences not only for Iraq but for peace and stability elsewhere in the Middle East. Would preventive or preemptive force succeed in thwarting serious threats or, instead, provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent? How would another war in Iraq impact the civilian population, in the short- and long-term? How many more innocent people would suffer and die, or be left without homes, without basic necessities, without work? Would the United States and the international community commit to the arduous, long-term task of ensuring a just peace or would a post-Saddam Iraq continue to be plagued by civil conflict and repression, and continue to serve as a destabilizing force in the region?

Beyond deposing Saddam Hussein, the United States government seemed to give little thought to real and lasting success in Iraq. On the eve of invasion, in February 2003, Archbishop Gregory reiterated the concerns of the bishops and made explicit the requirements for a morally valid policy: "A post-war Iraq would require a long-term commitment to reconstruction, humanitarian and refugee assistance, and establishment of a stable, democratic government at a time when the U.S. federal budget is overwhelmed by increased defense spending and the costs of war."

Beyond probability of success, there were failures related to other principles of the just war tradition:

  • Right Intention/Last Resort: While there was legitimate concern about the threat Saddam Hussein posed, the admitted absence of a specific and imminent threat and ability to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against our nation or others raised questions about the urgent pursuit of war. Invasion was clearly not a situation of "last resort."
  • Just Cause: Our government posited a long-term self-defense rationale, resting on the proposition that WMD in Iraq would pose a threat to core U.S. interests and that, even if the threat was not imminent, the nature of WMD was such that a new standard—preventive war—was justified. The church has rejected this innovation to the just war tradition. As Archbishop Gregory stated clearly in February 2003: "To permit preemptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents."
  • Right Authority: All states may use force unilaterally in self-defense. Absent attack (or a pre-emptive strike in response to imminent attack), the obligations of Chapter I, Article 2 of the U.N. Charter apply, and argue strongly for the application of the terms and procedures of Chapter VII of the Charter. Archbishop Gregory stated in a September 2002 letter to the President: "… in our judgment, decisions of such gravity require … some form of international sanction, preferably by the UN Security Council."
  • Proportionality: Proportionality requires that "the use of arms must not produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated (Catechism, no. 2309)." This includes not only death, injury and material damage, but also the social, political and moral damage war inevitably causes. The various statements and letters of the U.S. bishops repeatedly raised questions of proportionality.
Weighing all these considerations, Archbishop Gregory’s September 2002 letter ended:

We conclude, based on the facts that are known to us, that a pre-emptive, unilateral use of force is difficult to justify at this time. We fear that resort to force, under these circumstances, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for over-riding the strong presumption against the use of military force. Of particular concern are the traditional just war criteria of just cause, right authority, probability of success, proportionality and non-combatant immunity.
“Regime change” was too facile a goal and did not take account the unintended consequences and grave moral responsibilities of invasion and occupation.

The Morality of Occupation

In the wake of the U.S.-led invasion, as the depth of Iraq's needs became undeniable, leaders in the United States committed another moral error by failing to respond responsibly. The rejection of a direct U.S. police role, the disbanding of Iraqi military and police and the indiscriminate dismissal of Ba'ath party members from the Iraqi administration left a vacuum of governance, permitted lawlessness to spiral out of control, undermined Iraqi trust and confidence in the United States and its coalition partners and alienated many of the country’s Sunnis.
In January 2006, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, then Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued "Toward a Responsible Transition in Iraq," a statement setting forth the moral framework and many specific requirements for the occupation:

The intervention in Iraq has brought with it a new set of moral responsibilities to help Iraqis secure and rebuild their country and to address the consequences of the war for the region and the world. The central moral question is not just the timing of the U.S. withdrawal, but rather the nature and extent of U.S. and international engagement that allows for a responsible transition to security and stability for the Iraqi people.
The benchmarks for a responsible transition were based on longstanding church teaching on what was necessary for true peace and justice. Peace is more than the absence of war. As the Catechism teaches: "Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members” (no. 1099).
On behalf of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Wenski and later Bishop William Skylstad, then president of the U.S.C.C.B., spelled out the elements of a “responsible transition.” These included:

  • Achieving Adequate Levels of Security: From the massive looting following the occupation of Baghdad until the 2007 "surge," U.S. forces at first did not intervene to secure order and thus never re-established basic security. The consequences were soon apparent. Civilian deaths rose from roughly 610 per month in the first six months after May 2003 (the end of major combat operations) to over 1,200 per month by mid-2005 and exceeding 3,000 per month prior to the surge (Iraq Body Count). Material damage rose in tandem. Critically, the violence and lack of effective occupation and governmental response led Iraqis to fall back on older sources of security—sectarian and/or tribal militias. Security remains elusive today, except in the Kurdish region where its more homogenous ethnic makeup and access to resources has allowed a different trajectory of recovery.
  • Establishing the Rule of Law: Justice, a founding principle and primary social good in Islam as in Christianity, should have been a core policy goal. Securing justice required dealing justly with wartime wrongdoers, establishing a functioning police and judicial system and establishing a more just society for all. The first of these was accomplished, albeit imperfectly, by Iraqi authorities seeking to apportion responsibility individually and punish the guilty accordingly. But other justice-related goals were only partially met, in large part because of the absence of the security and social trust needed to build necessary institutions.
  • Promoting Economic Reconstruction: The United States and other nations contributed enormous sums and technical resources to economic reconstruction. Aid funds were increasingly supplemented by Iraqi funds from oil exports. Considerable progress in the delivery of basic services was made, but a lack of skills, corruption and, above all, continued violence undermined these efforts. Iraq's economy remains plagued by high unemployment, lack of investment, corruption and the effects of crony capitalism and political interference.
  • Supporting the Development of Just and Democratic Political Structures: Overcoming multiple social divisions and creating a civic culture and political system that advances the common good was, and remains, the most intractable problem confronting Iraq. Although the U.S. and other donors made great efforts to achieve this goal, the lack of security exacerbated social and political tensions. Unless the occupation forces and transitional government could enjoy something close to a monopoly of force and ensure individual security, it was doubtful that meaningful social reconciliation, economic reconstruction or political development could be realized.

The Moral Impact on the United States

The bishops warned that an attack on Iraq would have grave human, material and moral consequences for the United States as well as Iraq. In April 2007, they wrote to Congress: "U.S. policy must take into account the growing costs and consequences of continued occupation on military personnel, their families, and our nation. There is a moral obligation to deal with the human, medical, mental health, and social costs of military action." They also questioned the diversion of resources from pressing domestic needs, the impact on America's international standing and influence and a possible increase in global terrorism. Some 4,500 Americans died in Iraq; thousands more were injured. The material and financial costs of the war have diverted resources from other national priorities, to the detriment of the most vulnerable in American society. A 2013 study sponsored by Brown University has put the cost of U.S. intervention in Iraq at $2.1 trillion, with future costs (e.g., care for veterans) of perhaps another $4 trillion.
After 9/11, our nation was united in the conviction that combating terrorism required vigorous, new security measures. The Iraq war fractured this consensus and deepened and hardened fault lines in American society. The Iraq war may also have contributed to attitudes that stigmatize or burden our fellow Muslim citizens as a group and Islam as a religion. The war in Iraq has undercut America's ability to act as a force for the universal common good of the world, likely spurred terrorism, provoked greater opposition to the United States in the Islamic world and made cooperation with regional partners more difficult and dangerous.
The church teaches "the damage caused by an armed conflict is not only material but also moral" (Compendium, no. 497). Human rights concerns figured prominently in the bishops' letters and statements on Iraq: "Amidst the difficulties of building a stable, democratic Iraq, the special importance of basic human rights, especially religious freedom, should not be neglected. The inherent dignity and equal worth of all Iraqis must be respected" (“Statement on Iraq,” 2004). The moral tragedy of the invasion of Iraq is epitomized by human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003-05, and by official attempts to justify torture as a counter-terrorism tool. U.S. forces and occupation authorities generally sought to act in keeping with human rights norms and have prosecuted many offenders. Nonetheless, American society has to some degree been morally coarsened by human rights abuses in Iraq.

Lessons Learned

The Iraq war taught lessons we Americans must not forget. First, to ensure that the outcome of a war is "a more perfect peace," providing security is the first and essential goal. Without security, individuals and groups will seek security in extra-legal or illegal ways. In a fractured society, like Iraq's, this can quickly lead to a war of tribe against tribe. Absent security, achieving the many other goods intrinsic to a just post-war settlement is at best improbable and perhaps impossible.
Second, the use of armed force to resolve conflicts with and within broken societies is likely to fail. A just peace is not simply a matter of regime change, but must also involve the provision of security and the (re)establishment of an at least minimally just national life. 

Difficulties and dangers lie in the scale and scope of these tasks, and in securing the resources and maintaining the political commitment and support needed over many years to achieve them. 

Much more attention than was the case in Iraq must be paid by leaders to these moral responsibilities before military action is begun.
Third, the moral teaching of the church on war and peace, which also is the foundation for international law, provides a compelling and coherent guide for government action in situations of conflict. 

We ignore it at our peril. We risk unintended consequences. As we Americans contemplate our future engagement in global affairs, we must keep these lessons close, strongly constraining the urge to use force to right wrongs by instead robustly adhering to the moral principles of a just use of force and of the establishment of a just peace.

The Most Reverend Richard E. Pates is Bishop of Des Moines and Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/iraq-unintended-consequences-and-lessons-us-policy

The Beginning of a New Journey to Peace in the Holy Land?

Pope Francis looks on as Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas embrace at the Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

 by Gerard O'Connell

America Magazine, June 17, 2014 - “It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide,” Pope Francis said in a forceful speech concluding the historic Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land, held in the Vatican Gardens on June 8 and broadcast live by television to Israel and Palestine.

“More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the Evil One, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it,” he said, referring to the failed attempts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians over the past 66 years. “That is why we are here—because we know and believe that we need the help of God.”

That sentiment was shared by Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, and Palestine’s President, Mahmoud Abbas, elder statesmen who had, as Peres said, “experienced war and tasted peace,” whom Francis had identified as men of peace and men of faith.

For over half a century negotiators had excluded the religious dimension from the peace process, even though most of the Holy Land’s 12 million inhabitants—Jews, Christians and Muslims—believe in the one merciful God. By inviting their presidents to pray with him, Pope Francis brought God back to center stage. 

Such a high profile event has no precedent in the history of these lands. It was the pope’s brainchild, not the fruit of Vatican diplomacy. He was joined at the prayer gathering by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Pope Francis originally intended holding it in the Holy Land during his historic meeting in Jerusalem with Patriarch Bartholomew. Political obstacles prevented that, however, so he hosted it in a neutral setting in the Vatican Gardens: a triangular lawn, closed off on two sides by high hedges, with St Peter’s dome in the background. It was an idyllic setting for prayer: only the sounds of water flowing in a nearby fountain and birds singing in the trees broke the silence.

As the sun set, the pope, the patriarch and the two presidents arrived in a white minibus and joined the 18-member interfaith delegations from Israel and Palestine and the papal group. There followed a meticulously prepared hour-long prayer service in three parts: first Jewish, then Christian and Muslim. The format was the same for each: praise of creation, plea for forgiveness, invocation for peace. Each prayer was followed by a musical interlude provided by Jewish, Christian and Muslim musicians.

“Peace making calls for courage, much more so than warfare,” Pope Francis said. “It calls for the courage to say, ‘yes’ to encounter and ‘no’ to conflict; ‘yes’ to dialogue and ‘no’ to violence; ‘yes’ to negotiations and ‘no’ to hostilities; ‘yes’ to respect for agreements and ‘no’ to acts of provocation; ‘yes’ to sincerity and ‘no’ to duplicity.”

Israel’s President Peres agreed. “We must put an end to the cries, to the violence, to the conflict,” he said. “We all need peace. Peace between equals.” Peres, who reportedly reached a peace agreement with Abbas in back-door negotiations in 2011-12 only to have it rejected by Netanyahu’s government, said, “Peace does not come easy. We must toil with all our strengths to reach it. To reach it soon, even if it requires sacrifice or compromise.”

President Abbas, who connects well with Peres, said Palestinians “are craving for a just peace, dignified living and liberty.” He added, “Reconciliation and peace are our goal.” Indeed, “we want peace for us and for our neighbors. We seek prosperity and peace of mind for ourselves and others alike.”
After the speeches, Francis, Bartholomew, Peres and Abbas shook hands and together planted an olive tree before retiring to talk in private.

Can Pope Francis’ introduction of God into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict open a new horizon for peace? Can it change the political climate between these two peoples by creating a dynamic that political leaders cannot ignore and in which religion can make a positive contribution? Perhaps we will only know the answers to these questions when the olive tree has produced its first fruit.

Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/beginning-new-journey-peace-holy-land

Monday, June 9, 2014

Invocation for Peace : “Our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid!”

Invocation for Peace : “Our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid!”

prière pour la paixVATICAN GARDENS (Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem) – Sunday, June 8, 2014, Solemnity of Pentecost. An unprecedented event, the prayer of Presidents Peres and Abbas with the Holy Father and Patriarch Bartholomew. A prayer in three parts, in several languages, which ended with a warm embrace and the planting of an olive tree of peace, on neutral ground, to reinvigorate the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. For Bishop Shomali, the event was itself “a minor miracle.”
The prayer service was held at the end of the day, as at Pentecost – On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear… Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20, 19). A single prayer in three parts, rose heavenward imploring God for the gift of peace. All in the balmy evening and in the serenity of a garden, where everything can start again.
Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, President Abbas and President Peres, accompanied by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, went together to the house Saint Martha where they were received, continuing up to the gardens of Vatican in a single convoy, in a humble small white van. The place chosen for the meeting was a large piece of triangular greenery in the heart of the Vatican gardens, between the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Vatican Museums, where the delegations of the three religions waited (15 to 20 people each, mostly from Jerusalem), including Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Imam Omar Abboud, Argentine friends of the Pope. Also present for the occasion were the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal and the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III.
The Pope and the two presidents sat on chairs, while an interfaith orchestra interpreted the Simon Barber’s Adagio for Strings in B minor.
The three religions each took a time of prayer for peace, in chronological order, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, each time with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, requesting forgiveness of God, and finally a plea for peace.
The latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal prayed during the first moment, invocating “Creator God, Father of us all, who has placed us in the Holy Land, especially blessed among all the lands because there the history of our salvation has unfolded. May our shared thanksgiving for all Your blessings remind us that we are brothers and sisters, beloved of One God our Father, through Christ our Lord.”
Our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid!
Two weeks after the visit of Pope Francis in the Holy Land, the three were present. Present at Francis’ invitation to the Vatican to pray together for peace in the Holy Land. The Pope did not fail to thank His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and Presidents Peres and Abbas who “accepted (his) invitation to come here together to call upon God for the gift of peace” while adding It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide.”
plantation olivierThe Holy Father concluded his prayer by an urgent invocation: “We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms.  How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried…  But our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid!  Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace.  Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”.  Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters.  Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace (…).Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands.  Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!  Amen.”
At the end of the prayer meeting, the Pope, and the two presidents spoke in turn and exchanged a sign of peace. The symbolic handshake, as expected, was turned spontaneously into a graceful embrace, by the warmth of the Argentine Pope.
Then the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the two presidents each vigorously took a great shovel to plant together an olive tree for peace at the place of prayer.
Jerusalem, City of Peace
accoladeBoth the Israeli and Palestinian presidents did not fail to place, at the heart of their prayer, Jerusalem, the holy city, a stumbling block in the negotiations. The Israeli President, Shimon Peres, was presented from the outset as a man of the Holy City, Jerusalem, the “beating heart of the Jewish people.” “In Hebrew, he stressed, the word Jerusalem and the word peace have the same root.” Repeatedly citing Scripture, Shimon Peres said he was convinced that Israelis and Palestinians can bring peace to their children’s well-being and prosperity. “Two peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – still are aching for peace. The tears of mothers over their children are still etched in our hearts. We must put an end to the cries, to the violence, to the conflict. We all need peace. Peace between equals. Peace does not come easy. We must toil with all our strengths to reach it. To reach it soon. Even if it requires sacrifice or compromise.”
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, began meanwhile In the Name of God, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful”, begging him to save Jerusalem, calling it “our blessed city: the first Kiblah, the second Holy Mosque… with all that surrounds it”. He prayed on behalf of the Palestinian people – Muslims, Christians and Samaritans – who are craving for a just peace, dignified living, and liberty, I beseech you, Oh Lord, to make prosperous and promising the future of our people, and freedom in our sovereign and independent state.” Citing John Paul II, he stressed that “if peace is realized in Jerusalem, peace will be witnessed in the whole world”. “We ask you, O Lord, he continued, to make Palestine and Jerusalem in particular a secure land for all the believers, and a place for prayer and worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, Islam.” Mahmoud Abbas then asked for a just peace, stability and co-existence for all peoples of the Middle East.
For Bishop Shomali, Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, “as a prayer meeting, it was in itself a minor miracle, especially since it explicitly targeted peace between Israel and Palestine, and that the delegations were mainly from Jerusalem”. “The great miracle would be that the same prayer can take place in Jerusalem, it would be the great miracle of Pentecost.”
Myriam Ambroselli

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bartholomew at Vatican with Francis, Abbas and Peres

Bartholomee-Vatican-217x300ROME – As the Vatican prepares to host Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres for Common Prayer on Sunday, June 8, 2014, the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew expressed its intention to join this important event for peace.

Often proposals are made, which over time fade away and so remain unfulfilled. Fortunately, this is not the case of an appeal launched a fortnight ago by the Pope when he invited the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray together at the Vatican for the gift of peace. At the heart of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Holy Father received two affirmative and enthusiastic responses. Evidenced by the speed with which all agreed to an early date, the encounter is set for this Sunday, June 8, in the late afternoon.

More recently, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, expressed his desire to join this important and unprecedented meeting. Like Pope Francis, he, too, took time to speak with the two heads of state during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land that was to highlight the fraternal meeting in the Church of the Resurrection, before the tomb. On this occasion, Francis and Bartholomew wrote a statement in which they declared that “it is not weapons, but dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.”
Bartholomew at the Vatican
The sign sent by Patriarch Bartholomew is strong: in going to Rome to pray, he showed his followers and those of the Catholic Church that the gesture of the Holy Sepulchre is not a formal commemoration of a similar accolade made 50 years earlier between Paul VI and Athenagoras. In line with the celebration of Jerusalem, bringing the two successors of the Apostles is real and wants to go beyond the mere ecumenical context.
That being so, it is in favor of peace that the unity of the “sister” Churches is aimed at. The Patriarch said in his speech at the tomb: “We have exchanged an embrace of love, even as we continue along the path toward full communion with one another in love and truth, since no other way leads to life except the way of love, reconciliation, genuine peace and fidelity to the Truth.” A few days later, he issued a tweet in which he states that “peace is a reflection of love: a love that manifests itself in humility, mercy and righteous actions.”
These quick reunions should not obscure the main reason for the meeting: prayer this Sunday is organized primarily for peace between Israel and Palestine, in the presence of Presidents Peres and Abbas. But they are a real testimony to all Christians that prayer for peace is necessary and that it is not differences in theology or rituals that must prevent them from doing so in the unity.
Pierre Loup de Raucourt

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pope's Holy Land Trip Raises Hopes, Questions

Pope Francis speaks as he leads a meeting with priests, men and women religious and seminarians in the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem on May 26

Francis X. Rocca - Catholic News Service

Given the Holy Land's long and complex history of military, religious and cultural conflict, the run-up to Pope Francis' May 24-26 pilgrimage was inevitably marked by fears it would be marred by controversy—or worse.

Now that the pope's second international trip is over, so are those fears. The suspense is not, however. With a number of surprising gestures and remarks over three busy days, the pope left Catholics and others around the world wondering what comes next on a range of important questions.


Pope Francis made headlines on the second day of his trip by inviting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to join him at the Vatican to pray together for peace.
Most observers have set low expectations for that still-unscheduled event [update: scheduled for June 8, Pentecost], in part because Peres' position is largely ceremonial and, in any case, his term is set to expire in July.
Pope Francis would no doubt say pessimists underrate the power of prayer. He could point to his efforts last fall against U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to use military force in Syria, which culminated in an unprecedented prayer vigil for peace that drew some 100,000 to St. Peter's Square. The U.S., of course, did not strike Syria after all.
Practical results aside, Pope Francis' bold initiatives have earned him the role of pre-eminent voice for peace in the Middle East. 

That distinction could have more than symbolic importance for local attitudes toward the region's fast-diminishing Christian minorities.
During his trip, the pope told Abbas and Peres that Christians contribute to the "common good" in their countries and deserve to be treated as "full citizens."
No speech could make that point more eloquently than news photos of Jewish and Muslim political leaders praying for peace, side by side in the Vatican.

The original reason for Pope Francis' Holy Land trip was a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic encounter between their predecessors. The earlier meeting led the Catholic and Orthodox churches to lift mutual excommunications imposed in 1054 and opened the modern period of ecumenical dialogue.
Not surprisingly, this year's event did not yield any comparable breakthroughs, but there were hints of progress to come.
The pope told reporters on the flight back to Rome that he and Patriarch Bartholomew discussed possible collaborative efforts to protect the environment. They also talked about prospects for resolving differences in how the churches set the date of Easter every year.
Pope Francis, with his characteristic frankness, called the latter a "ridiculous" problem. Yet reconciling the timing of Christianity's most sacred feast could have a big impact on ordinary Catholics and Orthodox, leading many to view full communion between the churches as a more realistic goal. (Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the Holy Land already have already begun that process by agreeing that, beginning next year, they will celebrate Easter on the same date.)

During an inflight news conference on the way back to Rome, the pope was asked about reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a former Vatican secretary of state, mishandled 15 million euros in funds held by the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.
Without naming the cardinal, the pope said the matter was "being studied, it's not clear. Maybe it could be true, but at this moment it's not definitive."
The results of the investigation, if it finds the cardinal at fault, would have implications beyond the case itself. Few actions by the pope could do as much to show his seriousness about reforming the Vatican bureaucracy as publicly disciplining or rebuking the man who, until just last October, served as the Vatican's highest official.

The pope told reporters the door is open to allowing more married priests in the Catholic Church, in the Latin rite as well as the Eastern Catholic churches, where the practice is already established.
"Celibacy is not a dogma of faith," he said, which should not have surprised anyone familiar with the church's discipline. But he added pointedly: "Not being a dogma of faith, the door is always open."
Given how controversial this issue already is in parts of the Catholic world, the pope's comment is likely to prompt only more discussion.

Source: http://americamagazine.org/issue/popes-holy-land-trip-raises-hopes-questions

Monday, June 2, 2014

Father Dave Smith: Boxing in the Streets of Syria


Father Dave Smith of Australia is hoping that this video will pave the way for an amazing series of boxing-training camps to be held in Syria and in refugee camps around the world! 

Recently in Syria with Denning (who did the music and video) and Sol (who did most of the boxing), he notes that the three of them accomplished the following:


* made it all the way to Syria
* contacted all the relevant officials
* boxed and played with the kids in the streets
* put together a kick-butt record of what they achieved


Father Dave says, "I pray that God will now use this video to inspire fighters around the world to come and join our 'Boxers for Peace' program." 


He hopes that this video will reach boxing greats like George Foreman, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr., and anyone who might have the heart and the courage to put their bodies on the line for the sake of peace and for the children of Syria!


Please share the video which has its own website:


More about Father Dave Smith: 



Syrian Bishop: Christians Doing Everything Possible To Keep Church Alive

Satisfied With Pope's Efforts, Wants More Action From International Community
VATICAN CITY, June 02, 2014 (Zenit.org) - A Syrian bishop has issued a worldwide appeal to Christians and men of good will to preserve Christian Arab culture and for the international community to do more to end the war in the country.

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is president of Caritas Syria, said the Pope's immediate focus on Syria's conflict during his Holy Land trip was significant, according to a report in Avvenire.

“When Pope Francis went to the Holy Land, we were waiting for his word of peace in Syria. The Holy Father spoke of this problem immediately and this was very important for us,” the bishop said.

Bishop Audo was attending a Vatican meeting on Saturday of Catholic charities sponsored by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. The conference looked at how best to address problems in Syria.

"All in Syria,” the bishop said, “have great confidence in the Holy Father, not just Catholics and Christians, but also Muslims. For them, the Pope is a symbol of peace and honesty.” Muslims, he added, trust and hope something can be done.

Although the Pope’s visit and words were fruitful, the bishop stressed that Christians, men of good will, and the international community must do their part.

"We Christians must do everything we can in order to survive and stay alive asked to give testimony," he said.

"We must not leave," he stressed, because "this Christianity of Arab culture that has lived for centuries among Muslims is an inculturation truly unique in the history of the Church and you must do everything to preserve it."

Calling on Christians worldwide to recognize their duty to “not let the poor die because of military or economic interests," he said Christians of the world and all men of good "will have to assume responsibility."
Expanding his call to the international community, Bishop Audo said it "must make the decision to stop war." In this sense, he said, "it is very important not to sell arms" and to search for a solution negoziated "among different groups," so the 'last word' is not left to the "domain of violence." (D.C.L.)

Pope Decries 'Globalization of Indifference' Towards Syria

Praises Catholic Charities in Country for Expressing God's Love to the Suffering
VATICAN CITY, June 02, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Pope Francis has decried global indifference to the war in Syria and underlined that Christianity must be able to continue to live there, where its origins lie.

In a message to members of Catholic charitable associations meeting in Rome to discuss the crisis in Syria, the Pope said: “We must accept with great sorrow that the Syrian crisis has not been resolved, but instead continues, and there is the risk of growing accustomed to it: of forgetting the victims claimed on a daily basis, the unspeakable suffering, the thousands of refugees, which include the elderly and children, who suffer and at times die of hunger and of diseases causes by the conditions of war.

“This indifference is harmful!,” the Pope said. “Once again we must repeat the name of this illness that does so much damage in today's world: the globalisation of indifference”.

In the message to Saturday's meeting, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, he continued: “The action of peace and the work of humanitarian aid carried out by Catholic charitable entities in this context constitute a faithful expression of God's love for his children, who find themselves in conditions of oppression and anguish. God hears their cry, He knows their suffering, and He wishes to free them; and you lend your hands and your abilities to Him. … This meeting offers a useful opportunity to identify suitable forms of stable collaboration, in dialogue between the various actors, in order to improve the organisation of our efforts to support the local Churches and all the victims of the war, without distinction on ethnic, religious or social grounds”.

Pope Francis launched a further appeal to the consciences of the parties to the conflict, to world institutions and public opinion, and affirmed: “We are all aware that the future of humanity is built with peace and not by war: war destroys, kills, and impoverishes peoples and countries. I ask that all parties, with a view to the common good, immediately consent to humanitarian aid and to silence their weapons as soon as possible, making efforts to negotiate and to make their first priority the well-being of Syria, of all her inhabitants, including the many who have had to seek refuge elsewhere and who have the right to return to their homeland as soon as possible.”

The Pope singled out “the dear Christian communities, the face of a Church who suffers and hopes. Their survival in the Middle East is of profound concern to the universal Church,” Francis said. “Christianity must be able to continue to live there, where its origins lie”.