Pope should visit Gaza to stand for justice and peace, say petitioners

Pope should visit Gaza to stand for justice and peace, say petitioners

By staff writers
24 Mar 2009

A petition coordinated by peace organisations, theologians and other concerned individuals is calling on the Pope to visit Gaza and to take a stand for justice and nonviolence in the embattled province.

The Gaza strip is recovering from a recent massive military operation by Israel which led to hundreds of civilian deaths, thousands injured and huge devastation to housing and infrastructure.

The appeal has been organised by academics and students from the Postgraduate Theological Union at the University of San Francisco, USA, and other peace groups. It will be sent directly to the Vatican.

The petition has already been signed by Christians in Gaza, as well as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and people of good faith from around the world.

The text reads as follows:

To Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his visit to the Holy Land in May, 2009:

Your Holiness:

The incarnation of divine love and our redeemer, Jesus Christ, enacted human reconciliation in part by visiting, eating with, and listening to the least among us: women and children, lepers and tax collectors, many persons deemed inferior and unclean by his society. Through his words and deeds, Jesus taught us to love our enemies as ourselves and to be blessed peacemakers, persecuted for his sake and the sake of the Kingdom. In his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, Christ challenged sinful social situations that relied on exclusion, dominance, and violence.

In many ways, the people of Gaza have been suffering under similar unjust social systems. In many ways, the Israelis, too, live in fear, distrust, and uncertainty. And thus the deeper justice of mutual healing is needed for both peoples. However, the people of Gaza in large part represent "the least among us" today. Their territory has been cut off and isolated. Their access to basic health care, education, jobs, adequate nutrition, and clean water, etc. has been severely hampered. Thus, their capacity to participate effectively in their political process and their potential for full human flourishing suffers enormously. When we ask, "Whose equal dignity is most unequally ignored?" or "Whose equal rights are most unequally threatened?" the faces of the people in Gaza clearly arise.

Mindful of the gospel's call and the Gazan's need, we believe there is a unique opportunity for Christians as the body of Christ, especially for our leadership, to cooperate with God in the redemptive work of reconciliation. As in all times, the way of reconciliation exemplified by Jesus calls us to initiate social healing by visiting, eating with, listening to, and risking our safety in solidarity with the "least among us" -- in this case the people of Gaza. Moreover, like Christ, we need to be willing to risk our lives without the protection of arms, and thus, to live by the loving wisdom of the cross and the divine hope of the resurrection. Such witness by Church leadership will inspire the Catholic faithful, particularly the young, to embrace their Church and its rich tradition, particularly Christ's wise, loving, and nonviolent way of promoting reconciliation. Such witness will also encourage other religious leaders to practice nonviolent peacemaking. We trust and hope that through such courageous love, embodied in nonviolent peacemaking, God's Spirit and our participation will draw us all further into the Reign of God.

The petition can be found here: http://www.petitiononline.com/popegaza/petition.html

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