Bishop calls for peace in the Holy Land as attacks increase
A bishop in the Holy Land has called for prayers for peace as tensions and acts of violence increase ahead of the Palestinian Authority's bid for recognition by the UN.
The message of prayer from Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem and Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate for Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, was relayed to staff of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), during a fact-finding trip to the Holy Land.
Bishop Shomali said, “The Lord told us to pray for peace. Jerusalem will attain peace through the power of God, and not merely through the acts of politicians.”
The bishop said prayer was essential as people are yearning for peace and a better life after decades of violent conflict.
Further clashes in the West Bank are feared next week as the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its current UN status as an observer without voting rights to full member.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, September 15th, three cars were set alight in Beit Furik, just outside Nablus.
According to news agency Reuters, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib reported an escalation in attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank by Israeli settlers.
Mr. Khatib said that within the last two weeks there have been several incidents most days, including attacks on three mosques.
It was only confirmed Friday, September 15th, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be addressing the UN General Assembly next Friday, September 23rd.
In response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will be traveling to New York next week to oppose any move for the Palestinian Authority to be recognized as the UN’s 194th member state.
While many Christians have emigrated abroad because of the problems they face, Bishop Shomali, who comes from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, described the importance of the faithful remaining in the region.
He said, “The mission and calling of Christians is to remain in the Holy Land and work toward change.”
“We want change, but we want peaceful change.”
The bishop also called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza began last month after the Popular Resistance Committee attacked a bus carrying Israeli soldiers, killing 14 people.
The bishop went on to stress the importance of visitors to Jerusalem and encouraged Christians to visit the region.
Bishop Shomali said, “The Holy Land needs you, and you need the Holy Land.”
According to the bishop, pilgrimage can help Christians renew their own lives and obtain deeper insights into the Bible.
The 61-year-old bishop said, “The Holy Land needs peace, the Holy Land needs you.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is supporting numerous pastoral projects in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip.
ACN has been supporting the Patriarchates’ pastoral work in all three areas for the last three years, which aims at supporting Christians and promoting reconciliation.