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He looked down from His holy height,

from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, 

to hear the groans of the prisoners,

to set free those who were doomed to die

(Psalm 102:19-20)

A renewed appeal from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land about the victims of human trafficking in Sinai 

  We, the heads of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, continue to call out to the world in our deep concern for the fate of the African asylum seekers who have been kidnapped as they pass through Sinai. On March 20, 2012, we echoed the call of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to end the drama of the kidnapping, torture and trafficking in human beings, who are our brothers and sisters.

In recent days, there have been dramatic changes in the situation in Sinai. Due to the deployment of Egyptian troops in Sinai following the recent violence on the Israeli-Egyptian border, a window of opportunity opens up. It must be used to put an end to the ongoing, festering sore of the prison and torture camps in Sinai. Until the present, the Egyptian authorities have claimed that they are unable to act against the general lawlessness in Sinai and the bands of criminals who prey on the African asylum seekers. Despite increasing international pressure, Egyptian officials frequently explained that under the restrictions of the 1978 Camp David agreement and the demilitarization of the zone, Egypt is unable to take the required action. This lack of action by the central government has left the torture camps in place.

We appeal to the Egyptian government to act now. This recent deployment of forces allows the authorities to also shut down these camps and make sure the trafficking in human beings stops. At this very moment, there are still hundreds of victims (predominantly from Eritrea and Sudan) who are being held in such camps in Sinai. At this very moment, they are being tortured (suspended by the limbs, burnt by white hot irons, electrocuted on their body parts and systematically raped). All this has been courageously documented by determined human rights activists. At this very moment, the relatives of the victims are paying extortion money to release their loved ones.

May the cry of the oppressed be heard by those who now have the opportunity to release them from their bondage. As the month of Ramadan draws to a close, the Almighty Merciful and Compassionate God of us all will surely bless those who hear the cry of the suffering.

+ Fouad TWAL
Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins
President Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries

+ Michel SABBAH
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem emeritus
President Ep.Comm. Justice and Peace

+ Antonio FRANCO
Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine
Apostolic Nuncio for Israel and Cyprus

+ Giorgio LINGUA
Apostolic Nuncio for Jordan

+ Elias CHACOUR
Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Akka
Vice President Assembly of Ordinaries

+ Yaser Al-AYYASH
Melkite Cath. Archb. Petra & Philadelphia

+ Boutros MOUALLEM
Melkite Cath. Archbishop of Akka emeritus

+ Gregoire Pierre MELKI
Syrian Catholic Exarch of Jerusalem

+ Joseph Jules ZEREY
Melkite Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem

+ Maroun LAHHAM
Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan

+ Giacinto-Boulos MARCUZZO
Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel

+ William SHOMALI
Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem, Palestine

+ Kamal-Hanna BATHISH
Latin Auxiliary Bishop emeritus

+ Selim SAYEGH
Latin Auxiliary Bishop emeritus

Msgr Joseph KELEKIAN
Armenian Catholic Exarch of Jerusalem

Fr. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, O.F.M.
Custos of the Holy Land

Fr. David NEUHAUS, S.J.
Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew speaking Catholics

Fr. Evencio HERRERA DIAZ, O.F.M.
Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Cyprus

Fr. Raymond MOUSSALLI
Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan for Chaldeans

P. Pietro FELET, S.C.J.
Secretary general

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