To the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, To All the People in the Holy Land, Palestinians and Israelis

As concerned Catholics of the United States and other countries we write to you at this time of great tragedy and crisis to express our concern over the increasing spiral of violence that grips your land at this time, our grief over the loss of lives and the damage to the human dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians, and to pledge our support and solidarity to work with you to seek and encourage non-violent paths to peace in the region.  We are individuals and members of Catholic congregations and institutions who have committed ourselves to statements and letters to promote new paradigms of thought and action in a world torn by violence and terror.

In recent weeks we have seen and read of the fear that grips the people of the Holy Land.  The occupation of Palestinian areas, the blockades and closures, the increasing activity at settlements on the West Bank and Gaza, have destroyed the daily life, economy and infrastructure of the Palestinian people.  Israelis live under a constant threat of suicide bombings that take place without any notice, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. 
Especially tragic are the effects these military actions and bombings have on women and children, the most vulnerable of any society.  With each new act of violence any hope for peace is diminished.

As citizens of the United States we recognize that our nation has done little to help in stemming the violence.  Both sides have called on the U.S. to intervene, to speak out clearly, and to insist strongly that the violence end and that negotiations for peace resume.  Until recently, our national leaders have done little to respond to the pleas of either side, choosing to make largely ineffective statements, failing to speak with the legitimate authorities, and allowing the cycle of violence to continue by providing military aid to the Israeli army without insisting on an end to the violence, especially aggressions against the Palestinian civilian populations.  We are encouraged that in recent days our leaders have spoken out more clearly about the need to end the violence and we are hopeful that Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission to the region will sow the seeds that will bring about an end to violence and a renewal of the peace process. 

However, in the current context of the so-called "war on terrorism," we are concerned that the escalation of this war is being extended to people based on the actions of a few.  We deplore any violence, suicide bombings and military actions, that kill and maim civilian populations, destroy the infrastructure of nations and territories, instill fear and lead to further violence.  The actions of a few cannot justify labeling an entire people as terrorists and thereby justify an expansion of military actions.

Because of the inability of political leaders to effectively end the violence, we grieve over the loss of lives and the many who have been injured, some quite severely, because of the bombings and the military attacks.  In addition, the human dignity of each Palestinian and Israeli is destroyed when they are forced to take actions against one another including the harassment at checkpoints and the closure of Palestinian areas, preventing free movement in the region.  These actions violate established international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions that provide guidelines for conduct of nations and treatment of peoples during times of conflict.

Finally, we pledge our solidarity and support during this time of crisis.  As individuals, and working in collaboration, including dialogue with you, we will press our government to support and take effective action in implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1402 which calls for an immediate cease fire, a withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian Territories, and a resumption of negotiations that will lead to an effective and just peace in the region. We call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and the United States, to agree to an international peacekeeping mission that will ensure the safety and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.  We will insist that our government pursue a balanced policy in the region calling for an end to the violence, recognizing the responsibility of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.  We will also call on our government to end military aid to Israel, including the transfer of any military equipment since that aid is being used against a civilian population.

We are mindful that 2000 years ago, the Holy Land was under occupation by a foreign military power.  People of the region, Jews and Gentiles, awaited the day when occupation would end and they could live in peace and security.  Today, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, still await the promised peace that God intends for Jerusalem and for which we are all commanded to pray.  For that to happen the violence must cease and the occupation must end.  People have to be given hope, hope for a homeland, hope for security, hope for lives free from fear and terror.

As children of the One God, we also join you in praying for peace.  Political solutions have not been enough.  In this land, sacred to three faiths, political solutions will never be enough. Hearts open to the God who has chosen this land to reveal our common humanity, the God who has invited us all to find a home in Jerusalem, must also have an effective place in bringing about a just and lasting peace.  We need new visions of peace, visions that will take root in our hearts and flourish in our actions.  Our prayers at this time are that peace will take root in all hearts affected by the violence and will begin to flourish in our day.

The attached names are of Catholic of all walks of life; bishops, clergy and religious, laity.  They are involved in pastoral ministries, education, social justice, and businesses.  Their names are added to this letter to send a message of hope and solidarity.  Organizational affiliation is for identification purposes only.