By Tiziana Campisi and Lisa Zengarini
“Everyone must cooperate to stop the bombing of civilians in Gaza. We must begin to consider the human person as sacred again, regardless of ethnicity, religion and personal status.”
As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to dramatically worsen, with thousands dead and injured, including new-born babies, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, OFMCap, has reiterated his plea for ending indiscriminate bombing on the Strip.
The Italian Franciscan friar participated in the 16th Day of the Associations of the Holy Land, which took place at the Pontifical University Antonianum in Rome on November 11. The meeting, which is held every year, brought together the associations of volunteers working on projects in the Holy Land.
All human lives are sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims
In an interview granted to Vatican News’ Tiziana Campisi on the sidelines of the event, Fr. Patton stressed the urgent need to save and protect human lives, which, he recalled, are sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims. “For Jews and Christians, man is the image and likeness of God; for Muslims, according to the Koran, man is the Caliph of God, the representative of God on earth. Therefore, believers of the three religions have a very high idea of the value and dignity of the human person.”
Places of worship must be respected
Asked about the situation of the small Christian community enduring bombardment in Gaza, most of whom are currently sheltering in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family, Fr. Patton expressed his hope that “at least places of worship are respected” and that Christians in Gaza can overcome this extremely difficult moment.
Since the war erupted over a month ago, Israeli bombings have not spared hospitals, schools, and mosques, and on October 19 the compound of the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza was hit by an airstrike, killing 18 people and injuring several others.
In the interview, the Custos highlighted the vital importance of the presence of volunteers in the Holy Land because, he said, they contribute to creating bridges between the world and the Holy Land, not only with Christians but also with Israeli and Palestinian communities.
Concerns for a new Christian exodus from the Holy Land
As for the future, the Custos said he fears that once the war is over, there will be a new exodus of Christians from the Holy Land to the United States, Canada, and Europe.
“Many no longer feel safe, especially those who have families who do not want their children to grow up in an environment of hatred, where there is no mutual acceptance between people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds,” he explained.
However, Fr. Patton remarked that it is vital for Christians to stay: “Christians must be deeply convinced that being Christian in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East is a special calling, a kind of vocation, and not a curse,” he said, noting that they have an important role to play as bridges between Palestinians and Israelis, as they are not perceived as dangerous by either side.
“If they leave,” he said, “the space for coexistence will be further reduced.” “We always stayed, even when there were no pilgrims, and we know that it is important to stay in those places and pray in those places because they recall the Mystery of our Redemption. Redemption is a dramatic event, not a walk in the park; it is something that cost Our Lord Jesus Christ His life. And consequently, we are called to follow Him as disciples, even in the midst of difficulties.”
We must all begin to consider the value of the human person again
Fr. Patton concluded the interview with a strong appeal for an end to the suffering of civilians.“We must all begin to consider the value and dignity of the human person again. This is to avoid fueling anti-human and terrorist ideologies,” he said.