Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I ask all our parishes to hold in prayer the very troubling situation in Palestine/ Israel and the Gaza Strip. The violence, destruction and loss of life is deplorable and horrifying. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones, those who have been maimed, those who are displaced and those who have been taken hostage.
There are many parts of the world where there is violence, war and civil strife and we should keep all of these in our prayers. However the particular situation in the Holy Land is of special concern since it is the land so spiritually tied to our faith and is our mother Church. Furthermore, the conflict potentially has terrible international consequences and could easily lead to a frightening escalation of violence. While there are those who seek facile interpretations of the conflict, there is no single narrative that captures the full context of what is presently happening in the Holy Land.
With Pope Francis, we call for the release of hostages. We also pray for those in Gaza who have been held under siege for so many years in what is effectively the world’s largest open air prison. Our prayers need to accompany all who find themselves hostage.
We need to pray for the support of the many people in the Holy Land who work for a just peace. During my visits over the years, when I have sat around the table with Jewish families in Jerusalem sharing Shabbat meals or as I drank coffee with Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza and heard of their longing for liberation, I have seen how many seek a just peace. Peace will never be attained through the barrel of a gun and it is the peacemakers who keep the flame of hope alive in what seems like an increasingly dark situation.
As people of faith, and especially those of the Abrahamic faiths so tied to that land, we need to turn humbly, yet urgently, to God the Creator of all, to soften the hearts of those committed to violence and to inspire them to “hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into billhooks (so that) nation will not lift sword against nation or ever again be trained to make war” (cf. Micah 4:3b).
May peace reign in the hearts of all.
Yours in Christ,
+Stephen Cardinal Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town
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