Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal strongly denounced the increasing wave of violent retaliations following the murders of Israeli and Palestinian teens and called on political and religious leaders to act to calm the atmosphere.
“We political leaders, we religious leaders must be more serious to take the situation in hand and say enough; enough for the mothers, enough for the innocent persons,” he told Catholic News Service on Monday.
He said politicians must actively work to halt the violence; it is not enough for religious leaders to meet.
“As long as the politicians are not with us, we lose,” he said. “We create a culture of peace, but we need the politicians to be with us.”
In early July, three Israeli teens were murdered by Palestinians as they hitchhiked home from their school in the West Bank. An East Jerusalem Palestinian teen was murdered in apparent retaliation for the Jewish deaths.
Media reported Israeli police arrested six minors as suspects on Sunday in relation to the murder of the Palestinian teen, who was found in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem. One of the suspects has reportedly confessed to the murder and is cooperating with the police. Police and forensic experts have said the boy was still alive when his body was burned.
Though one Palestinian suspect has been arrested in connection to the murder of the Jewish boys, the two main suspects had not been apprehended by July 7.
Patriarch Twal said that violence attracts violence and war attracts war, and he condemned the use of violence by both Palestinians and Israelis.
“The whole system must change,” he said. “We must see what kind of education (the youth) are getting.”
He said he has spoken often about the need for stronger education about tolerance following the numerous incidents of vandalism against Christian property over the past two years, but he said his words were not taken seriously by Israeli leaders.
Patriarch Twal said he was pleased to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn the killing of the Palestinian teen.
“This holy land, this holy city is passing a total contradiction. We call it ‘holy,’ but from holy we have very little here,” he said. “After all the hope of the Pope’s visit we are passing a very dramatic situation worse than others. I don’t know where this cycle of violence will lead us to. Peace is worth making a sacrifice for; it is worth supporting each other for more peace, for more justice. We can’t continue like this.
“We still pray, we still hope, we still believe in the beautiful message of the pope and the beautiful prayer of the pope,” Patriarch Twal added. “I hope the international community will have the courage to say what is just is just and what is wrong is wrong.”
Following the discovery of the bodies of the Jewish boys on June 30, hundreds of Jewish extremists charged angrily through the centre of Jerusalem, chanting anti-Arab slogans. The Palestinian family reported their son missing the following day.
Since the murder of the Palestinian, riots have broken out in East Jerusalem in the evenings following the breaking of the Ramadan fast, and rioters destroyed two light rail stations in Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Arab citizens of Israel blocked roads and intersections near their towns. Israeli cities and farms along the border of the Gaza Strip have come under attack by missiles launched from Gaza, and Israel has retaliated against specific Hamas targets in Gaza. News reports say seven people have been killed, and the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic party Hamas vowed to avenge those killings.
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