Christians in the Holy Land are 'not forgotten' say bishops

Delegates after Mass with Jordanian Clergy and local community in FuheisMazur/

Christians in Gaza are effectively living "in prison" according to senior bishops with a special mission to support the Church in the Holy Land.

In a statement from their annual conference during which they visited Gaza, Bethlehem, Israel and Jordan, bishops from the Catholic, Anglican and other Churches said that in spite of everything else happening in the region, the people of Gaza must know they are "not forgotten".

The bishops, who incuded the Church of England's Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun and the Catholic Bishop of Clifton Declan Lang, said that "ongoing violence" makes it all the more urgent that help is offered to those who wish to live in peace.

In Gaza, the 2014 war led to the destruction of thousands of homes as well as physical and social infrastructure, and the deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians.

"One and a half years later, while there are signs of hope and the resilience of the population is remarkable, many remain homeless and traumatised by the war. The blockade continues to make their lives desperate and they effectively live in a prison," the bishops said.

At the Holy Family Parish, the bishops were told: "In this Year of Mercy, one of the acts of mercy is to visit prisoners and I thank you for visiting the largest prison in the world."

The bishops said in their statement: "The ability of so many Christians and Muslims to support each other in this situation is a visible sign of hope and, at a time when many seek to divide communities, an example to us all."

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa blesses refugee children on a

The bishops admitted that the right of Israel to live in security was "clear" and called for world leaders to put greater energy into a diplomatic solution "so the two peoples and three faiths can live together in justice and peace."

In Jordan, the bishops said the Church is growing but Christians fear increasing extremism in the region.

The Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met annually since 1988 at the invitation of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, mandated by the Holy See in Rome.

The bishops focus on prayer, pilgrimage and persuasion with the aim of acting "in solidarity with the Christian community" as it experiences intense political and social-economic pressure. Currently, Christians in the Middle East are facing some of the worst persecutions in history, with some communities on the verge of being completely wiped out in the very regions where the faith was born.