GENEVA — In a statement issued during a special session of the Human Rights Council, the Holy See urged an immediate ceasefire and the start of negotiations aimed at a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
“The Delegation of the Holy See reiterates its view that violence never pays. Violence will only lead to more suffering, devastation and death, and will prevent peace from becoming a reality,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi.
The archbishop — who serves as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations office in Geneva — spoke July 23 during the 21st special session of the Human Rights Council, addressing the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem.
According to reports, the fighting so far has killed 32 Israeli soldiers and two civilians, a Thai guest worker and more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
The Holy See statement recalled the words of Pope Francis, who on May 25 in Bethlehem called for intensified “efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security.”
The Pope also stressed at a June 8 prayer meeting for peace in the Vatican Gardens that “with violence, men and women will continue to live as enemies and adversaries, but with peace they can live as brothers and sisters.”
In his address, Archbishop Tomasi underscored that “as the number of people killed, wounded, uprooted from their homes, continues to increase in the conflict between Israel and some Palestinian groups, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the voice of reason seems submerged by the blast of arms.”
This is an outcome of a culture of violence that “will not lead anywhere, not now, nor in the future,” he said.
“In the long run, there can be no winners in the current tragedy, only more suffering.”
The Holy See permanent observer lamented that “most of the victims are civilians, who by international humanitarian law should be protected.”
The United Nations’ estimate that 70% of Palestinians killed have been innocent civilians is “just as intolerable as the rockets and missiles directed indiscriminately toward civilian targets in Israel,” he said.
“Consciences are paralyzed by a climate of protracted violence, which seeks to impose solutions through the annihilation of the other,” he warned, but “demonizing others does not eliminate their right. The way to the future lies in recognizing our common humanity.”
Archbishop Tomasi pointed to Pope Francis’ appeal for the “courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two States to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized border.”
The archbishop also appealed to “fundamental human rights,” including “the legitimate aspiration to security” and the search for “decent living conditions, with access to the normal means of existence like medicine, water and jobs.”
“The worsening situation in Gaza is an incessant reminder of the necessity to arrive at a cease-fire immediately and to start negotiating a lasting peace,” he maintained.
Focusing on the international community, the archbishop underscored the responsibility “to engage in earnest in the pursuit of peace and to help the parties in this horrible conflict reach some understanding in order to stop the violence and look to the future with mutual trust.”
“At a time where brutality is common and human rights violations are ubiquitous, we must not become indifferent, but respond positively in order to attenuate the conflict which concerns us all,” he said.
“Violence will only lead to more suffering, devastation and death, and will prevent peace from becoming a reality. The strategy of violence can be contagious and become uncontrollable.”
In addition, the archbishop called on the media to “report in a fair and unbiased manner the tragedy of all who are suffering because of the conflict.”
In this way, he said, the media can “facilitate the development of an impartial dialogue that acknowledges the rights of everyone, respects the just concerns of the international community, and benefits from the solidarity of the international community in supporting a serious effort to attain peace.”
“With an eye to the future, the vicious circle of retribution and retaliation must cease,” Archbishop Tomasi emphasized.