Catholic peacemakers challenge Israel's separation wall
Members of the British Section of Pax Christi met in London at the weekend to launch their new campaign: "People of the Holy Land Need Bridges not Walls" - an education and political campaign challenging the separation wall in Israel.
The organisations which works with idea of reconciliation and nonviolence is encouraging churches and groups in the UK to learn more about the reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, using the separation wall as a focus.
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi said: "Many people will remember the impact and use of the Berlin Wall in the 20th Century and how people managed to bring this wall down. We now have to support international campaigns to bring down the wall in Israel that will deny 210,000 Palestinians, living in the area between the wall and Israel, from access to social services, schools, places of workshop and work."
During the meeting delegates also heard Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor Diocese, speak of the 60s as a generation for building walls - in real and metaphysical terms. These walls suited particular agenda's of their time - they were built to defend interests and not people. They were built based on the assumption that separation will lead to security. People of faith, he said, cannot be satisfied with walls. The Kingdom of God is inclusive. The task of peacemaking and education is to knock down barriers and seek unity in diversity.
Delegates at the annual conference also heard of the success which Pax Christi has achieved in the past year in promoting peace Sunday and the Pope's Peace Message every January. More and more parishes are making the effort to celebrate and mark the day - offering a message of peace and supporting the work of Pax Christi.
Another feature of Pax Christi's Middle East work is its support for the World Council of Churches programme of Ecumenical Accompaniment in Israel and Palestine. This programme trains and sends volunteers to work for three months at a time in Israel or Palestine. Rosemary Read, vice-chair of Pax Christi is currently training for this programme. She will be posted there between September and December 2004.
Pax Christi, Peace of Christ, is a gospel-based lay-inspired, peacemaking movement. Founded in the Catholic Church, its membership is open to individuals, groups and organisations of all faiths who are in sympathy with its aims and values. It is affiliated to Pax Christi International. Pax Christi strives to help the Church and the wider community to proclaim and to make peace, through its experience and ideas, and especially through the witness and action of its members. The three major objectives of Pax Christi are reconciliation, the promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence and providing the means to bring about peace.