Calls for prayers for peace in the Middle East have continued around the globe as the situation for minorities in Iraq worsens and the people in Gaza continue to suffer after 50 days of fighting.
The Catholic aid organisation Caritas International is helping Iraqi minorities escape the fighting and is continuing to monitor the desperate situation. In New Zealand people are being urged to support the Peace in the Middle East appeal by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand with a focus on Gaza.
The Catholic Bishops of New Zealand wrote to Pope Francis on 31 July 2014 acknowledging his efforts to bring together Israeli and Palestinian leaders for prayer, and his ongoing plea for an end to violence and for lasting peaceful solutions. Their letter follows.
‘Your Holiness: It is with great sadness and anguish we watch the terrible conflict in Gaza from faraway New Zealand.
‘Our sense of helplessness is relieved a little by constant prayer for the cessation of the current conflict and for a resolution of the longstanding issues which underlie it. But we pray in the comfort of a land that really only knows peace, and which is a long way from international conflicts. Knowledge of the appalling suffering in Gaza fills us with a sense of desperation and leads us to ask what else we can do to alleviate the suffering and help bring peace.
‘We are encouraging our people to support the work of Caritas in Gaza. We are urging them to pray, individually and together, for an end to the fighting and a true and lasting resolution. These are significant steps but still more is needed, and for those of us who live in peace there is an obligation to do everything possible to bring the gift of peace to others.
‘Holy Father, Gaza has been a prison for the last seven years. The blockade has destroyed the Gazan economy, and the same blockade now prevents people fleeing from Gaza to safety. The people cannot even exercise their right to become refugees by crossing the border to escape the fighting.
‘When you entered the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people by bringing President Mahmoud Abbas and President Shimon Peres together for prayer, it was an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You stood with the two Presidents in a way that has never been seen before, and you continue to talk with them. We know you will use all the resources of the Holy See and the moral leadership inherent in your role to do everything possible to bring about a cessation of the fighting and true and lasting peace between the Palestinian people and Israel.
‘We respectfully draw your attention to the request of Father Raed, the parish priest of Holy Family Parish in Gaza who said: “I launch a humble appeal to Pope Francis: may you convene a vigil of prayer and fasting for peace in the Holy Land, as you did for Syria. All the people who inhabit this land, the land of Jesus, are tired of living in fear and pain”. This prayer vigil is taking place in the countries close to Gaza, but the magnitude of the disaster is so great, that we ask if the Holy See could make this a global vigil.
‘We assure you of our prayerful support and that of the Church in New Zealand, and our loyalty as you continue to lead us to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel.’
The Bishops urge New Zealanders to the support the Caritas humanitarian effort in Gaza. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has provided an initial grant of $20,000 for humanitarian efforts in Gaza. These funds are the result of people’s generosity through the Caritas Gifts – Gifts of Peace programme.