|Bishop Oscar Cantu blesses a nun Jan. 14 before leaving the
Hogar Nino Dios, a home run for abandoned and
disabled children in Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
Congress should urge the government of Israel to halt unnecessary confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank, a move that would help address the plight of Christian Palestinians in the Cremisan Valley and “renew hope for a just resolution to the conflict,” said the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In a February 11 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged the committees to intervene with the Israeli government regarding a plan to reroute the separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank. The plan, he said, ignores the rights and needs of the local community and would have “devastating consequences.”
“The proposed routes of the separation barrier would effectively confiscate the Palestinian agricultural and recreational lands of over 50 Christian families. This threatens the livelihoods of the remaining Christian community of Bethlehem, pressuring even more to leave the Holy Land,” wrote Bishop Cantú, who traveled to the Holy Land in January to meet with community and Church leaders and see the situation first hand.
“The barrier would also negatively impact the work of the Catholic Church in the Valley by separating a Salesian monastery from a nearby convent, isolating both their ministries from critical resources and contacts with the local population. In one case, the proposed route would surround a Salesian school for 450 students on three sides with a militarized barrier,” wrote Bishop Cantú.
Bishop Cantú noted that the Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of the patterns that jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threaten the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated the U.S. bishops’ longstanding support for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
The full text of the letter is available online: here.