Statement by H.E. Archbishop
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent
Observer of the Holy See
Before the Special Political and
Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)
on item 30: United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
New York, 1 November 2005
My delegation, having carefully
reviewed the Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), expresses once
again its appreciation for the work of the Agency during this time of
The Holy See willingly acknowledges
the help that UNRWA offers all Palestinian refugees, without discrimination or
reference to their religion, as is only just. Nevertheless, we are obliged this
year to draw attention to the growing difficulties faced by Palestinian
Christians who, although they belong to a faith born in that very land, are
sometimes viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. Doubly discriminated
against, it is hardly surprising to learn that this tiny group – less than 2% of
the local Palestinian population – is particularly marginalised.
All Palestinians have the right to
fair and fair-minded treatment from their peers and from the recognised
authorities alike. Religious extremism of any kind, implicated in attacks, abuse
and harassment of Christians in the area around Bethlehem recently, is not to be
tolerated. No matter who is targeted by violence and bigotry, such acts are a
stain on the conscience of peoples. It is thus the hope of my delegation that
solutions will be found by local leaderships which will address the needs of all
the members of local communities who suffer from violence.
Moreover, of ongoing concern is the
security wall which cuts access to some Palestinians’ lands and water sources,
as well as to employment, commerce, education, medical care and freedom of
worship. My delegation freely acknowledges the right of all peoples to live in
peace and security; on the other hand, we believe that the Holy Land is in
greater need of bridges than of walls.
In the hope that the many problems
of the region will be resolved by negotiation and dialogue, my delegation
underlines that a lasting solution will include the question of the Holy City of
Jerusalem. In light of the numerous incidents of violence and the challenge to
free movement posed by the security wall, the Holy See renews its support for
“…internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of
conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access
to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities” (A/RES/ES-10/2).
Jerusalem is the acknowledged home
of the three Abrahamic faiths, and whoever has custody of the Holy City has a
particular responsibility for it before the international community. Borrowing
the recent words of Pope Benedict XVI, we hope that Jerusalem will one day be “a
home of harmony and peace” for all believers.
The time is long overdue for
fraternal, open dialogue in order to bring about the birth of two states, side
by side, mutually respecting each other’s right to exist and prosper. There have
already been far too many innocent victims, be they Israeli or Palestinian,
Jews, Christians and Moslems alike. Only with a just and lasting peace – not
imposed, but secured through negotiation – will the legitimate aspirations of
all the peoples of the Holy Land be fulfilled.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.