A group of bishops from across Europe and North America have voiced their deep concerns over Israel's occupation of Palestine. The group, who visit the region every year to promote dialogue and peace, described at length the grim situation following their return from the occupied territory.
"Every year we come to encounter and hear the people of the Holy Land. We are inspired by their enduring resilience and faith in a worsening situation," announced the 15-member group in a statement.
The delegation conveyed the message of their Christian counterparts in Palestine, who warned that people are facing further "evaporation of hope for a durable solution." They described that they had: "Witnessed this reality first-hand, particularly how construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace."
Local bishops sounded the alarm regarding living conditions under Israeli occupation, to the Christian delegation, stating that it was becoming "more and more unbearable".
"This is painfully clear in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement," explained the group. "In Gaza the political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses and a profound humanitarian crisis. We were welcomed by families whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water," the group added.
They urged Christian groups to witness first-hand the fates of co-religionists living under Israeli occupation. "We encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities," they told.
Imploring governments to help build a new political solution, rooted in human dignity and international law, they called on others to follow the Pope's lead in recognising the state of Palestine, while also calling on the international community to reject political or economic support for Israeli settlements.