You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien,
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.
If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me,
I will surely heed their cry.
(Exodus 22:20-23)
Statement in the light of the events on May 23, 2012
in south Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel

We, the heads of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, cry out in anguish and distress at the acts of aggression perpetrated on those who have arrived in Israel, seeking asylum from wars, violence, famine and misery. We speak out as human beings, as concerned residents of the Holy Land and as pastors of our flock as many of the victims of these attacks are Christians. Our brothers and sisters from Africa, particularly from Sudan and Eritrea, have come knocking on our doors, begging for our compassion and seeking refuge. Many of them have been through hellish experiences in their own countries and on their way here and now they are exposed to violence and aggression in our own country too.

Among the population of asylum seekers are those who have committed crimes and the law must be enforced by the police and the criminals must be brought to justice. However, on May 23, 2012, we were witness to mobs taking to the streets and taking the law into their own hands. They abused verbally and physically any African who happened to cross their path without distinction. Those inciting the mobs are attempting to create a reign of fear and influence the formulation of policies and laws based upon unacceptable ideologies and principles. Vigilante violence carried out by mobs has no place in a society based on law and seeking to maintain order.

We recognize the sovereign right of the State of Israel to develop policies and promulgate laws that regulate the influx of foreigners into its territory. These laws must be drafted by experts, who are capable of weighing up the enormous moral, social, political and economic challenges involved in these issues. Such policies and laws must be formulated responsibly and with due process, respecting international conventions that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, guarantee fundamental human rights and respect of the human person and uphold international law. Furthermore, Israel is a signatory of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and thus the asylum seekers in Israel have the right to protection from vigilante violence and arbitrary deportation.

We implore one and all to be vigilant against a loss of humanity, a descent into racist fanaticism and a hardening of hearts. Let us remember that this land is also the Holy Land, called to a particular vocation of justice, peace and hospitality, in the spirit of our common forefather Abraham.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
(Hebrews 13:2)
 
 
+ Fouad TWAL
Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins
President A.C.O.H.L.
 
+ Antonio FRANCO
Apostolic Nuncio for Israel and Cyprus
Apost. Deleg. in Jerusalem and Palestine
 
+ Giorgio LINGUA
Apostolic Nuncio for Jordan
 
+ Michel SABBAH
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem emeritus
 
+ Elias CHACOUR
Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Akka
Vice president A.C.O.H.L.
 
+ Boutros MOUALLEM
Melkite Cath. Archb. of Akka emeritus
 
+ Yaser Al-AYYASH
Melkite Cath. Archb. of Petra and
Philadelphia (Amman)
 
+ 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,
and Palestine
 
+ Kamal-Hanna BATHISH
Latin Auxiliary Bishop emeritus
 
+ Selim SAYEGH
Latin Auxiliary Bishop emeritus
 
Msgr. Joseph KELEKIAN
Armenian Catholic Exarch of Jerusalem
 
Msgr. Georges SHIHAN
Maronite Patriarchal Administrator
 
Fr. Pierbattista PIZZABALLA, O.F.M.
Custos of the Holy Land
 
Fr. David NEUHAUS, S.J.
Patriar.Vicar Hebrew speaking Vicariate
 
Fr. Evencio HERRERA DIAZ, O.F.M.
Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Cyprus
 
Fr. Raymond MOUSSALLI
Patriar. Vicar in Jordan for Chaldeans
 
Fr. Pietro FELET, scj
Secretary general
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