Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
Catholic aid agencies advocate for besieged Gaza civilians
FROM WCR NEWS SERVICES
Canadian Catholic aid agencies have raised concerns about Gaza’s civilian population as war rages between Israel and Hamas.
Development and Peace and CNEWA Canada (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) have echoed Pope Benedict’s call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.
“At this moment our primary request and our primary concern is for the civilian population caught in the fire between Israel and Hamas militants,” said Development and Peace international program director Gilio Brunelli.
CHRISTIANS IN GAZA
“It’s important to note there are 4,000 Christians in Gaza,” said CNEWA Canada general secretary Carl Hetu, who stressed the important role Christian organizations play in peace and reconciliation.
Brunelli said he recognized the roots of the conflict are complex, but stressed “both sides must put down their weapons without preconditions.”
The lives of tens of thousands of people who have nothing to do with this war are at stake, he said.
“People are dying in the streets with nobody able to help them.”
Brunelli said the Israeli army is blocking humanitarian organizations and journalists from entering Gaza. The 1.5 million people living there have run out of flour, water is scarce and electricity has been cut off. Fuel for generators is running out, he said.
“We want all sides to abide by international conventions and let humanitarian organizations have access to victims of the conflict,” Brunelli said.
Hetu stressed the importance of the social and educational institutions, the clinics and the schools that Christian groups run in Gaza.
CNEWA’s Jerusalem office supports three clinics in Gaza for mothers and children.
Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for 162 national Catholic charities including Development and Peace, also called for the immediate opening of two more crossings into the Gaza Strip so that medical and other aid can reach the region’s people.
MEDICAL SERVICES COLLAPSE
The Caritas statement quoted Claudette Habesch, secretary-general of Caritas Jerusalem, as saying: “Our staff in Gaza are witnessing a collapse of medical services. People are dying in their homes because they can’t get treatment.”
The statement said it was unsafe for people to move around in Gaza, meaning both doctors and the injured cannot reach the clinics and doctors cannot reach the homes of the injured.
Food, medicine and other relief items already were lacking because of the 18-month-long Israeli blockade of Gaza, Caritas said.
Caritas Internationalis is providing primary medical services through Caritas Jerusalem and Holy Family Parish in Gaza City, the statement said.
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