Prayer for Just and Lasting Peace - July 2006
Bishop Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy
The horrific cycle of violence in the Middle East is destroying the lives
of innocent people on all sides of the conflict. It is also destroying the
hopes for negotiations and accommodations that could lead to a just peace
that would offer genuine security to Israelis, a viable state for Palestinians
and real independence for the Lebanese people.
As Catholics and Americans, we should be deeply and urgently concerned
about the human costs, the moral implications and future consequences of
these unfolding events. Policies and actions proposed to address the conflict
must take as their point of departure the fundamental dignity of the human
person, for no lasting peace can be built without successfully resolving
the situations of objective injustice that have existed too long in the region.
Hamas and Hezbollah both precipitated this present crisis with their cross
border attacks, abductions and their indefensible rocket and missile attacks
on Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs. These acts of terrorism rightly
deserved the condemnation of all people of good will. These radical armed
groups (and their supporters in Syria and Iran) bear the blame for initiating
the current cycle of violence. Israel clearly has a right to defend itself.
However, at the same time, as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of
State, said, Israel’s right to self-defense “does not exempt it from respecting
the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian
populations.” Israel’s response has been in some instances militarily disproportionate
and indiscriminate. Punishment of entire peoples for the indefensible acts
of militant armed factions contradicts traditional just war norms.
Because of the massive counterattacks on civilian areas and infrastructure,
blockades and other acts of war, a serious humanitarian crisis is looming
in both Gaza and Lebanon.
Violence, from whatever side, for whatever purpose, cannot bring a lasting
or just peace in the Land that Jews, Muslims and Christians call holy. For
this reason, Pope Benedict XVI in asking that Sunday July 23 be a day of
prayer for peace in the region called for an immediate ceasefire and asked
that the warring parties allow that “humanitarian corridors” be opened in
order to bring help to the suffering people. The United States also can and
must play an important role in ending this current cycle of violence and
in helping to meet the immediate needs of thousands of displaced innocents.
There are brave and wise people on both sides who seek a just solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a solution that would see two states living
side by side in peace with each other. Their efforts are undermined by this
recurrent cycle of terrorist attacks, deliberate provocations and disproportionate
Likewise, Lebanon’s struggle to free itself from outside domination and from
becoming once again a bloody pawn in the broader Middle East conflict is
also undermined by the morally indefensible bombing of innocent civilians.
Karl von Clausewitz, a 19th century Prussian general, said that “war is politics
pursued by other means.” Yet given the complexities of the Middle East, “might
makes right” policies are condemned to fail. Only genuine dialogue and negotiations
can bring a lasting and just peace to the region. May we make our own the
prayers of Pope Benedict XVI, “So that the beloved peoples of the Middle
East are able to abandon the path of armed confrontation and build, with
boldness and dialogue, a just and lasting peace."