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Responding to the escalation of violence in the Holy Land, Bishop William Morris, Acting Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council issued the following statement today:

Having watched with horror the escalating cycle of aggression and retaliation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council adds its voice to calls for international intervention in the Holy Land.  We support calls from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for an international presence to prevent greater tragedy in the Holy Land.  The purpose of such an international presence, either in the form of UN-sponsored monitors or peacekeepers, would be to reduce violence, to restore respect for human rights, and to work towards the creation of conditions in which negotiations could be resumed.

We condemn unequivocally all acts of terrorism, and of state violence against civilians.  We are appalled at the suicide bombings and the massive military retaliation to them.  We are deeply saddened by the acts of violence recently directed at sacred symbols and places in the Holy Land, including the celebration of the Jewish Passover and the City of Bethlehem.  Neither innocent human lives, nor synagogues, nor churches, nor mosques, are sacred according to the logic of escalating violence.

Praying earnestly for an end to the violence, we extend our condolences to all of its victims in the Holy Land, and to their families.  As Pope John Paul II observed in his Easter Message, the Urbi et Orbi: “… nothing is resolved by war, it only brings greater suffering and death, nothing is resolved through reprisal and retaliation.”

We agree with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson: the international community cannot stand by while the violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories escalates, and support calls by Professor John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, for an active international presence to prevent even greater suffering and death.

The need to break the hellish cycle of hatred and vengeance was clearly outlined in the Pope’s January address to the foreign Diplomatic Corps in Rome:
No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the Palestinian people have been victims for more than fifty years.  No one can contest the right of the Israeli people to live in security.  But neither can anyone forget the innocent victims who, on both sides, fall day after day under the blows of violence.  Weapons and bloody attacks will never be the right means for making a political statement to the other side.  Nor is the logic of the law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to paths of peace.

The whole international community, for the sake of innocent civilians in Israel and Palestine, must take responsibility for intervening to create the conditions for negotiations to resume.  We call on Christians, Jews and Muslims in Australia to join with all people of goodwill in praying earnestly for peace in the Holy Land, and to work for the resumption of negotiations.