Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal emphasized the importance of ending the
violence in Syria’s civil war in his Christmas message delivered Wednesday
afternoon, but insisted that conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was
still hindering development in the Middle East.
“At this time, we cannot
forget the inhabitants of Syria, and among them the refugees in our neighboring
countries, as well as all those around the world, who suffer in body and
spirit,” said Twal, who is the head of the Catholic church in Israel, the
Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Cyprus.
He continued saying that “while
the world’s attention has shifted from the situation in the Holy Land to the
tragedy in Syria, it must be stated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
remains crucial to the region and is a major obstacle in the development of our
society and stability in the Middle East.”
The patriarch called for an
immediate and “sustainable” cease-fire in Syria and called for “outside weapons”
to be blocked from entering the country and said that political leaders should
find “a mutually acceptable political solution that will end the senseless
He also noted the ongoing political instability in Iraq, Egypt
and Libya, commenting that this situation “affects everyone, but especially our
faithful who are tempted to emigrate,” in reference to Christian minorities in
the Middle East and the increasing flight of Christians from the
Twal pointed to the resumption of peace negotiations between
Israel and the PA as a positive development, but said that “the continuous
building of Israeli settlements” hampers such efforts.
During a question
and answer session with the patriarch and other members of his clerical staff,
Reverend David Neuhaus, a vicar of the Latin Patriarchate, said that the
situation of African migrants and asylum- seekers in Israel, many of whom are
Christian, should also not be forgotten.
“We need to be in solidarity
with those who are the most fragile, and right now those Sundanese and
asylum-seekers are among the most fragile in our diocese,” he
Speaking later to The Jerusalem Post
, Neuhaus said that the Latin
Patriarchate was working closely with the migrant workers and asylum-seekers to
take care of their religious requirements and also to document their experiences
in reaching Israel.
Neuhaus also noted that the church has “an ongoing
presence” in south Tel Aviv, where many African migrants reside, and has rented
premises which is used as a temporary church.
Speaking about the debate
within Israeli society regarding African migrants and asylum- seekers, he said
that he was concerned by “growing racism” surrounding the issue.
hope of the church is that if the Jewish people reflected on the Jewish people’s
own heritage as a marginalized, fragile people there would be a more open heart
to understanding the plight of these people, the terrible circumstances in which
they’re trying to survive, and the terrible trauma which they’ve passed
through,” said Neuhaus.
“There is a growing racism which I think Israel
in particular and Jews in Israel in particular have to be very cautious
of. They’ve been victims of such racism themselves,” he continued, and
was critical of terminology such as “infiltrators.”
“Some of these
‘infiltrators’ are people who are fleeing for their lives, it wasn’t such a long
time ago in the 1930s that Jews were fleeing Europe for their lives and being
treated as infiltrators,” he said.
“This type of language creates
realities of racism which we don’t want to see here,” said Neuhaus.
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