Christian Aid has welcomed the announcement that Pope Francis will visit the West Bank on Sunday 25 May and hopes that his presence will rejuvenate stalled peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
William Bell, Christian Aid’s Middle East Policy and Advocacy Officer said: "Pope Francis can provide hope for Palestinians and Israelis in their quest for peace. His propensity for speaking truth to power and giving honest reflection is what is needed at this time. Clearly the status quo cannot continue and all parties need to consider what it will take to deliver people from the misery of refugee camps, from a life controlled by others and from a persistent existential fear.
"Pope Francis’ visit is an opportunity to help the parties understand what a viable peace would look like. This includes an end to occupation and insisting on a process that is underpinned by international law.
"Failure to secure a lasting solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is causing poverty to deepen, and allowing violence and despair to persist."
The visit of Pope Francis to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory comes at a tense and fraught moment in the peace process. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was unable to get the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships to reach any sort of meaningful agreement by an imposed deadline of 29 April.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis reminded his weekly general audience about his trip, and asked them to "pray for peace in this land which has suffered greatly." During his trip he will be meeting Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, in Bethlehem and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem. It will be the first time that an official papal delegation will include members of other faiths – an imam and a rabbi.
William Bell added: "Christian Aid believes peace is possible, but it will require a political will to challenge impunity and confront human rights violations.
"This is why we call for dialogue involving all parties to the conflict. We believe only full international backing for such a dialogue will create the political will that is necessary to establish a process in which all interests are fully represented and which can address the root causes to the conflict so that a just solution can be found. This is the first step towards a viable, secure and peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis."