No one wins by destroying each other, Jerusalem bishop says

Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, speaks with CNA on May 26, 2014. Credit: Paul Fifield/CNA.

Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem hopes the new indefinite ceasefire in Gaza will hold, cautioning that victory cannot come from violence and that compromise is vital on both sides for it to last.

“This time we are much more hopeful for one important reason: no one is victorious after two months. Two are losers I believe, no one is victorious even if someone says 'I won.' No one won,” Bishop Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNA Aug. 27.

Each has “finally understood that no one can destroy the other” and that “there is a need for a compromise” as well as “a comprehensive solution to the problem,” he said.

The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza's access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.

The agency reports that immediately Israel is to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel's call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.

Israel originally launched their Operation Protective Edge July 8 with the stated goal of ending rocket fire from Hamas. To date, at least 2,140 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, BBC reports, while 11,000 have been injured.

U.N. officials state that more than 17,000 buildings in the area have either been destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are at least 475,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), which is over a quarter of the territory's population.

Of all the needs Gaza citizens are currently facing after 50 days of intense fighting, Bishop Shomali explained that “The greatest need is humanitarian. Medical needs for the wounded, hospitals which are overcrowded.”

“There is also the need for food nourishing these people” and “in the future we need special psychological treatment for traumatized children.”

Currently the situation “is difficult because of the big number of victims,” he said, stating that “Many, many homes were destroyed, many families lost everything; their house, maybe they lost their dear ones in the house. It’s tragic.”

Explaining how patriarchate opened their schools to those seeking shelter and fleeing from the ongoing attacks, Bishop Shomali noted that at least 1,000 people sought refuge there.

Now they are preparing for a new academic year, but there is a lot of work to do in restoring the schools after the presence of so many who were homeless.

“We have to refurnish it, paint it, renew the windows and the doors. It’s been a mess,” he said, revealing that they will also “dispensate” families “from paying any fees because they have no money. So we take care of all of the scholarships of the students, this is a big amount.”

Noting how the Holy See has been helping relief efforts through numerous Catholic aid organizations such as Caritas Jerusalem and Catholic Relief Services, the bishop explained that “we thank the Holy See because they are very aware of the situation.”

“The Holy Father was very close to us, very close to the parish priest of Gaza, so we are really consoled by the proximity of the Catholic Church with us.”


Voices

‘Digging a well together’

Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, was fond of sharing this story: He had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed, and the two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences as Muslim and Christian.  

Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer out of a sense that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didn’t call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as “digging a well together.”

 

 

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