In UN address, Holy See voices support for ceasefire in Yemen

New York City, N.Y., Oct 30, 2019 / 12:06 am (CNA).- A nationwide ceasefire is essential to ease the suffering of the people of Yemen, which has been in a civil war since at least 2014, said the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. on Tuesday.

“Children are starving; access to clean water is scarce; the economy continues to struggle severely; those who cannot flee the front lines of war remain cut off from basic supplies and humanitarian workers are impeded to operate in some areas,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, describing the situation in Yemen.

“A nation-wide ceasefire that this Council has repeatedly called for is essential if the intolerable suffering of the Yemeni people is ever to come to an end. Coherence and honesty demand that this call for a ceasefire must be concretely accompanied with a stop to the flow of arms in the region.”

Auza on Tuesday gave a statement at the United Nations Security Council during the Open Debate dedicated to "The Middle East, including the Palestinian Question.”

Yemen, located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, has for several years been the site of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with about 22 million of the nearly 29 million people in the country in need of some sort of humanitarian assistance. More than 2 million people have been displaced from their homes and the number of people facing pre-famine conditions could reach 14 million, the U.N. has estimated.

Auza also addressed other topics, including “glimmers of hope” in the eight-year long conflict in Syria with the announcement of the formation of a Constitutional Committee, scheduled to convene in Geneva on Thursday. The committee, composed of opposition, civil society and government members, will seek to rewrite the Syrian constitution.

Despite this hope, he also echoed Pope Francis’ call for safe passage and humanitarian assistance for the thousands of refugees fleeing northeast Syria as tensions with Turkey remain high.

Auza also addressed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that “harmful rhetoric, threats, terrorism and violence, including at times disproportionate use of force on the part of the security forces” have exacerbated an already tense situation.

While Israel’s population is predominantly Jewish, about 20% of the country’s 8.5 million people are Arab. About 2% are Christians, though their numbers have sharply declined after decades of emigration.

The Palestinian population is largely split geographically and politically between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants, largely based in Gaza, have engaged in military attacks on Israelis, and the Israeli military has also conducted military action.

Security borders have impaired Palestinians’ ability to work and travel, including travel to Muslim and Christian holy places, while Jewish settlements in the West Bank are a continuing source of tension.

“While everything must be done to ensure that the Holy Sites are protected in line with International Law and the Status Quo regarding the city of Jerusalem, so that people of all religions can visit and worship without fear, it is of deep concern that native Christian communities feel constrained to abandon these lands, the very cradle of their faith, in search of peace and security for themselves and for their children,” Auza remarked.

The Holy See has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and on a diplomatic level recognizes and refers to both “the State of Israel” and “the State of Palestine.”

“However, [Christians’] presence and witness in these places is of fundamental importance. More should be done to ensure their protection, not only for their survival but also for them, like all citizens living in Israel and Palestine, to realize their full potential and integral human development,” Auza continued.

“It is high time that decisions taken and mechanisms already in place are used effectively to realize the objective of a Palestinian State, living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said in May that peace, mutual equality, and respect must be the foundation of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations, despite continued setbacks.

The ordinaries represent a diverse group of Middle East Christians in communion with Rome. They have voiced doubts about the viability of a two-state solution.

“The proposal for a two-state solution has gone nowhere and is repeated to no avail,” they said in May. “In fact, all talk of political solution seems empty rhetoric in the present situation.”

“Therefore, we promote a vision according to which everyone in this Holy Land has full equality, the equality befitting all men and women created equal in God’s own image and likeness. We believe that equality, whatever political solutions might be adopted, is a fundamental condition for a just and lasting peace.”

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