FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sheila George, LCWR, 301-588-4955, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marita Eddy, CMSM, 301-588-4030, email@example.com
Media Inquires: For interviews or digital photos of the
delegation’s visit to the Holy Land, please contact
Stan DeBoe, OSST, 410-456-6732 (mobile).
Leaders of Catholic Religious Congregations Return from Middle East and Call for Establishment of a Palestinian Homeland and End of Israel’s “Injustice of Occupation”
(Silver Spring, MD) December 17, 2002 – Returning from the Holy Land only days before Christmas, an international delegation of leaders representing 200,000 Catholic sisters, religious priests and brothers has issued a statement drafted in Jerusalem calling for the establishment of peace in that troubled area by the withdrawal of Israeli troops from contested lands, the establishment of a Palestinian homeland and an end to suicide bombings by Palestinians.
“We believe that peace will come only when the injustice of occupation ends and the Palestinian people can live securely in their own nation,” noted the delegation, composed of leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Religious Conference of England and Wales. “ We also believe that Israel will not know peace and security until a Palestinian homeland is realized.”
The document, directed to the leaders of Catholic religious congregations in the United States and the UK, offers reflections on their encounters with both the people and the daily realities of the people of the area. “We were privileged to meet women and men – Israelis and Palestinians: Jews, Christian and Muslims who, in spite of the oppression and occupation, are seeking paths of peace and work for justice.” From these people, the leaders learned of their perception of the international community and “the roaring silence” regarding their plight in the Holy Land. “They are deeply disappointed that the international voice is virtually silent in the face of occupation, oppression and violence.” From this experience, the leaders call on their member congregational leaders to accept a challenge: “They have asked us to speak out in our own Christian communities, our own nations and in the international community. …We recognize that we have a great responsibility to heed the challenge of our friends in the Holy Land by raising the awareness of their reality and to act effectively in our congregations, our ministries and our respective countries.”
As well, the American-based Conferences’ leadership plans to petition the U.S. Government to take a strong stand for the sake of peace. “ We will call on our government to urge the Israeli government to end the illegal occupation and withdraw to the borders agreed upon in U. N. Resolution 242. ...We also call on our government to urge the Israeli government to cease all expansion of settlement, which includes stopping all new building and all transfer of people to the settlements…to cease construction of the wall that will further divide this land and impede the already constricted freedom of movement of the Palestinian people.”
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The leaders also call on the Palestinians to play a role in this peace process. “We also call for restraint from Palestinians who have turned to act such as suicide bombings out of frustration and hopelessness…Violence, whether state-mandated or the acts of desperate individuals, will only bring more violence.”
In the three-page document, the leaders recount witnessing situations that led them to take this radical stand. Following meetings with Israeli and Palestinian government officials (including Palestinian President Yasser Arafat) and religious leaders of many faiths, the delegation toured Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza and Bethlehem. Reflecting on their observations in the statement, the leaders observe that “The damage done by the re-occupation [of the Palestinian Territories] has destroyed the infrastructure of Palestinian cities – building have been bombed and bulldozed, roads destroyed, utilities disrupted, homes have been razed.” In addition to this, the leaders noted, “The closures and curfews have destroyed the daily life of the Palestinian people.”
For the leaders, the situation brought to mind a Biblical parallel. “Like Jesus who experienced humiliation at his crucifixion, the Palestinian people experience humiliation daily during the closures and curfews…In the Palestinian people, Jesus still suffers at the checkpoints.”
The document was signed by CMSM President Canice Connors, OFM. Conv.; LCWR President Mary Ann Zollmann, BVM; Religious Conference of England and Wales President Margaret Scott, ACI and Vice President Nicholas Postlethwaite, CP.
This delegation to the Middle East is the first collaboration between the U.S. and U.K. conferences, and was based in their common commitment to international peace. The document that arose from this initiative “has provided a unified voice of our three conferences on this important issue,” observed CMSM Justice and Peace Office Director and delegation member Rev. Stan DeBoe, OSST. The full text of the delegation’s statement may be found at www.lcwr.org and www.cmsm.org.
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The membership of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) has approximately 1,500 men and women religious leaders who are responsible for more than 700 Catholic institutes in the United States. Together, the conferences’ members represent more than 100,000 of the country’s Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious priests.
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
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