On Friday, October 20, Pax Christi USA and more than two dozen other national Catholic organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to take the necessary steps to de-escalate the conflict in Israel-Palestine, including calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and for all parties to prioritize corridors for humanitarian aid for the people in Gaza; and to prioritize steps to secure the immediate release of hostages and ensure international protection for civilians.
Alarmed that the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in Israel’s ongoing bombardment and siege of Gaza, and that President Biden’s October 19 Oval Office address so heavily focused on sending more weapons to this conflict while ignoring its root causes, the Catholic leaders warned that this could “increase the dehumanization, destruction, and trauma of all communities involved.”
“As people of faith, we condemn Hamas’ attacks and taking of hostages on October 7, and Israel’s retaliatory violence that impacts all the people in Gaza,” the letter states. “We mourn the loss of all life. We respond to conflict in accord with commitments to such sacred dignity, to just peace, and to accountability rather than retribution.
“We affirm that each person has been created in the image and likeness of the God of Love … If we continue to send weapons to this conflict, we will increase the dehumanization, destruction, and trauma of all communities involved. Yes, everyone has a right to defense. Yet, how we choose to defend can either perpetuate cycles of violence and trauma, or it can break cycles of violence and trauma. Now is the time to call for de-escalation and ceasefire, before more lives are lost and the conflict spreads.”
The Catholic groups affirm the words of Pope Francis: “War does not solve any problem, it only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future.”
Additional quotes from several of the signing organizations follow:
“Pax Christi USA is heartbroken and angry about the current violence taking place in Gaza and other areas around Israel and the Occupied Territories. We are deeply and tragically aware of the U.S. government’s complicity in the conflict, its tacit support of the ongoing occupation by frustrating efforts to apply international law, and the unchecked military aid. As members of the Catholic peace movement in the U.S., we bear a special responsibility to hold our government to account, speaking out against military aid that will only lead to greater bloodshed, and demanding action on behalf of a ceasefire and the painstaking work to create a just peace rooted in equality, human rights, and dignity for all.” – Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
“We grieve and condemn all violence and war, which only fuels more violence and represents what Popes John Paul II and Francis lamented as ‘a defeat for humanity.’ For far too long, political leaders have relied on militarized responses to conflict and have not addressed root causes of conflict. We urge President Biden to step back from declarations of “unequivocal” support of Israel and military solutions and instead engage in robust diplomacy for a ceasefire.” – Lamar Bailey, Director of Institute Justice Team, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
“Quixote Center mourns the deaths of thousands over the past two weeks and affirms our solidarity with Jewish and Palestinian communities. We condemn the Hamas attack on innocent civilians and we also cannot ignore the Israeli government’s disregard for human life and international law, including collective punishment of Gaza’s 2.4 million people, restrictions on humanitarian aid, and mass displacement of Palestinians. We are deeply disappointed in our country’s unwavering support for war, including a supplemental funding request for billions in additional military aid to Israel. As an organization rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, we know that a different future is possible. We appeal to our government to demand an immediate ceasefire, ensure international protection for civilians and release of hostages, and invest in de-escalation and peace, instead of further war.” – Kim Lamberty, Executive Director, Quixote Center
“We have immense grief for the victims of the attack by Hamas and concern for the hostages. Now we see a growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where innocent people are in urgent need of food, water, medicine and shelter, and yet the bombing continues. This is a dark and hard time. As people of faith who see all people as made in the image of God and believe that each of us can make a difference for peace, we feel compelled to cry out for a ceasefire now. We need to keep the focus on protecting humanitarian needs and human life. There needs to be a ceasefire and the small trickle of humanitarian aid that is set to enter Gaza needs to quickly grow into a river of help that can reach the millions of people in need. A ceasefire is the first step in breaking the cycle of violence and vengeance and replacing it with voices of reason that uphold basic rights and protect human dignity.” – Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
“The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd deplores the violence by Hamas on October 7 in Gaza, and grieves for all the innocent lives lost that day and in the wake of the Israeli response. We are grateful to President Biden for his work for the release of hostages and his words of compassion to those experiencing unimaginable loss. We ask him to extend that compassion with a call for a humanitarian ceasefire and corridor so that the more than two million people suffering in Gaza – half of them children – might get the aid they so desperately need. As Pope Francis said, ‘War erases the future.’ We join with others in prayer for peace to preserve the future of a land held sacred by so many.” – Fran Eskin-Royer, Executive Director, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
“Franciscan Action Network offers its heartfelt condolences and solidarity to Israelis and Palestinians in their tremendous suffering, and calls on the US government to take steps to foster peace and a rapid end to the violence. We pray for the immediate release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas as well as immediate cessation of Israeli bombing campaigns, which are taking a terrifying human toll in Gaza. We call on all parties to remember that further escalation, such as a ground invasion of Gaza, will only take them further away from the peace and reconciliation that Palestinians and Israelis ultimately need to reach.” – Michele Dunne, Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network
Cover photo by Eric Haynes; used courtesy of Creative Commons