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Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien Regarding the Holy Land

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[CCCB translation]

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A0

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

This past January, as also the year before, I was in Jerusalem with other delegates from the Episcopal Conferences of Europe and America. We wanted to see how things had evolved from January 2002 to January 2003. I wish to draw your attention to two points on which I very much hope that Canada will intervene.

A degraded humanitarian situation

In less than a year, the situation has degraded in a catastrophic fashion: more deaths, more oppression in the name of security, more unemployment in Israel as well as in Palestine (65 percent unemployment in the Gaza Strip, 50 percent in the Palestinian Territories, 11 percent in Israel), more emigration (one percent of the Christian population in two years), more control points, a growth in Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territories, less freedom of movement, more suicide bombings, less hope, less mutual trust. The situation even affects the sick who cannot get to hospitals, as ambulances are unable to pass the control points (a number of people have died in the ambulances). This means that fundamental human rights are being flouted, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, where the territory is now divided into three sections and freedom of movement is even more restricted for a people already living in what amounts to an open-air prison.

While all attention is being drawn to the eventuality of a war in Iraq, the situation in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories is degrading, contrary to United Nations resolutions. What is the international community doing? What is our country doing to arrive at a solution for a situation that has been going on for more than 40 years and which is only becoming worse?

A new wall of shame

As you know, Mr. Prime Minister, Israeli military authorities have decided to separate the Palestinian Territories from Israel by a long wall that would cross the whole country. Its construction is now at Bethlehem. Because of this Israeli decision, 60 families, near Rachel’s Tomb, which is a sacred Jewish area, have been encircled, isolated and cut off from any service. They have only a small entry in the eight-meter-high wall that isolates the city of Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the other territories.

In the name of the Christian populations of the Middle East, and recalling all those men and women for whom the Holy Land sites are as sacred as those for Jews and Muslims, I urgently call on you that something be done so that Bethlehem can remain a place where anyone can go, to pray there and to live in peace there. I request that you exercise all the necessary influence toward ending the construction of another wall of shame at the very entry of the sacred town of Bethlehem. The citizens of Bethlehem, particularly its Christians, find themselves encircled, threatened by a slow death, and forced to leave.

Mr. Prime Minister, I appeal to your humanitarian sense and to your convictions to do all that is in your power in order that construction of this wall of shame be avoided in this holy place where Jesus was born, and in order that its people not be made hostages, almost half of whom are Christians.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for whatever you and your collaborators can do toward finding a solution to this conflict and avoiding these actions and projects that are as humiliating and disrespectful as I have described.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service

 

Last Updated on Friday, August 11 2006  
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Canada’s oldest diocese, the Archdiocese of Quebec, was established in 1674. Most Reverend François de Laval was its first Bishop.