By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service
JERUSALEM (CNS) — Leaders of the European bishops’ conferences expressed solidarity with people of the Middle East, especially those being forced from their homes, and called on European states to act generously, justly, and respectfully toward the influx of migrants and refugees now reaching their shores.
In a statement released Sept. 16, the last day of their meeting in Jerusalem, the bishops said they met in the Holy Land to “renew their rootedness in Christ.”
“Looking at the joys, sufferings and challenges of the church in the different countries, there emerged a picture of the great movement of peoples: asylum-seekers, refugees, migrants. The anguish knows no bounds,” the leaders said.
“The complexity of this exodus, with its inevitable differentiations, demands great attention from the individual states, whose situations are radically different,” they said, noting that the church in Europe was acting with “great commitment” to collaborate with their states following Pope Francis’ appeal that every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary to take in at least one refugee family.
The bishops also called on the United Nations to “reach effective solutions” to stop the violence in the migrants’ countries of origin and work towards peace in each nation.
“Peace in the Middle East and in North Africa is vital for Europe, just as it is crucial that a true peace throughout the continent itself be reached as soon as possible, starting from Ukraine,” they said.
The bishops reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and development in the Middle East, noting that it is “the real name of peace.”
Speaking about the situation in the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank, where Israel continues to build a separation barrier along lands belonging to Christian families near a monastery and convent, the bishops said they hoped “an appropriate solution” could be reached, which would be “respectful of the rights of families, their properties, and of the two religious communities as well as their teaching mission.”
Residents in the area have filed several legal appeals requesting that the wall be rerouted and an Israeli Supreme Court seemingly sided with them to block the plan in an April decision. However, the court declined to issue an injunction to stop work on the project. Bulldozers and tractors began uproot hundred-year-old olive trees and clearing dirt paths in the valley Aug. 17.
“In the Holy Land, the Christian community contributes in a very special manner to building the peace, understanding and culture of forgiveness, without which social cohesion does not exist,” the statement said.