South African Archbishop Expresses Solidarity with Victims of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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The Archbishop of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese has expressed solidarity with the people of God in the Middle Eastern nations of Israel and Palestine following days of violence that saw hundreds killed, thousands displaced, and property destroyed. 

In a Thursday, May 20 statement shared with ACI Africa hours before a ceasefire was announced, Archbishop Stephen Brislin says, “The intensity of the violence and the rhetoric lays bare a raw hatred which has shocked us.”

“Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the violence, those who have been displaced, injured, killed, those who live in terror or who have lost loved ones,” Archbishop Brislin says.

“Most especially, we hold in our hearts and prayers our acquaintances and those we regard as friends in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel who, in our past visits, have welcomed us and opened their doors to us,” he says, making reference to his Holy Land Coordination membership, a group of Bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America who visit Israel and Palestine annually. 

The Israeli cabinet voted to a ceasefire, ending the violence that started when Hamas, a Palestinian military group that controls the self-governing territory of Gaza Strip, reportedly fired rockets towards Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, forcing the Israeli Defence Forces to retaliate by launching  missiles on the Gaza Strip.


The ceasefire came to an effect in the early hours of Friday, May 21 after Egypt reportedly brokered a peace deal between Hamas and Israel.

In his May 20 message, Archbishop Brislin recognizes the fact that the crisis was not caused by religious differences. The crisis, he says, has been “intensified and is a consequence of the dispossession of Palestinian land and the establishment of Israeli settlements, the blockade of Gaza and the separation wall enclosing the West Bank.”

“Now is a time to overcome partisan interests and to pray for wisdom which comes from God,” the South African Archbishop says.

Making reference to the Letter of James, he says that wisdom “comes down from above (and) is essentially something pure; it is also peaceable, kindly and considerate; it is full of mercy and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.”

The Archbishop calls on people of goodwill in the Middle East to enter into dialogue “to find a way towards a true peace.” 

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“We call on them to make their voices heard to recall the words of Pope Paul VI who said ‘If you want peace, work for justice,’” the 64-year-old South African Archbishop says.

Still making reference to Pope Paul VI, the Archbishop of Cape Town says, “He  rightly stated that such an endeavor (peace) requires ‘greatness of soul’ and it is such greatness – and not the ‘greatness’ of weapons that destroy, maim and kill – that is required at this time.”

“It is the greatness of truth and honesty that paves the path to justice, while avoidance and obfuscation will only pave the path to a future of ongoing violence without any resolution or any hope of peace,” says the Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of Cape Town Archdiocese since December 2009.

“It is those who make peace who will be considered in God’s eyes,” he continues, adding that it is “an obligation on all leaders to encourage and facilitate a true peace which, once again, can only arise through truth and justice.”

As a way forward, Archbishop Brislin suggests that all warring parties “allow and accept an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes so that appropriate action may be taken against any persons who have committed such crimes and, by so doing, have exacerbated the situation.”


Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.