Catholics in Holy Land pray for peace, reconciliation
By Antonio Anup Gonsalves
Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 11, 2014 / 02:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News) - Under the back and forth of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets, concerned Catholic migrants from India are praying for peace in the Holy Land.
“So far, the migrants are safe and no casualties have been reported,” Fr. Tojy Jose, OFM, head of the Indian Chaplaincy in the Holy Land, told CNA July 11.
“Migrants and tourists are apprehensive about the current situation, especially the newly arrived ones: for them it’s a new and terrifying experience.”
The community of Indian emigrants in the Holy Land have entrusted their protection to Mary, the “protector and patroness” of the Indian chaplainsy, Fr. Jose said.
Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired hundreds of rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with a comparable number of airstrikes on the Gaza strip.
More than 100 Palestinians have died in the airstrikes, according to the Palestinian health ministry, which has also reported that 675, most of the civilians, have been injured.
Hamas' rockets have caused damages and injuries in Israel, but have yet to lead to any fatalities.
Fr. Jose said that many outdoor activities of Israeli immigrants have been cancelled, and that “attendance in the church has decreased, as it is not safe to travel.”
“The Indian chaplaincy is making special prayer intentions for peace in all our centers during this weekend's services.”
The chaplain said that migrants relatives and friends in India are worried by the current unrest in Palestine and Israel, and continue making enquiries about the security and safety of their loved ones.
The visit of Pope Francis gave much “hope for peace and harmony” in this region and everyone thought that it would strengthen the peace negotiations, he said, and that there would be some sort of “reconciliation and mutual restraint.”
“This conflict has affected everyone living in this region, especially the aged, sick, disabled, migrants, and children,” Fr. Jose said. “It has far-reaching effects on these people.”
“Innocent people are paying the price for this conflict.”
He said that the Indian chaplaincy has announced security warnings on its Facebook page, and said that “the Indian Embassy has opened an emergency wing and is ready to extend help to the people in case of any eventuality.”
“I am constantly in touch with the embassy officials, and am appraising the daily situation,” he added.
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land said July 8 that “we offer our sincere condolences to all those in mourning, Israelis and Palestinians. We must continue to pray that those that have fallen recently will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.”
The commission stressed that “we need radical change. Israelis and Palestinians together need to shake off the negative attitudes of mutual mistrust and hatred.”
“We are called to educate the younger generation in a new spirit that challenges the existing mentalities of oppression and discrimination. We need to shake off any leadership that feeds on the cycle of violence.”
The international community has called for a ceasefire, but none seems to be in sight.
The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.
The Gaza Strip is a 141 square mile area, part of Palestine, located to the west of Israel and home to 1.7 million persons.
Since Hamas came to power there in 2007, Israel has conducted an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of persons and goods in an effort to limit rocket attacks on Israel launched from the territory.