Members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) are appealing for a ceasefire to the Israel-Palestine war and advocate for a “humane” solution to the violent conflict.
According to media reports, at least 2,808 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed in the war that started on the morning of October 7 when Hamas, an Islamist militant group governing Palestine’s Gaza strip, attacked Israeli citizens in Southern Israel.
"The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference appeals for a ceasefire and that a humane way of dealing with the present situation be found to eliminate further suffering and deaths," the Bishops say in a Monday, October 16 statement.
In the statement that SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, signed, the Catholic Church leaders in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa further say that while the Israeli government has a right and obligation to protect its citizens, the bombardment of Gaza “is causing the suffering and death of a huge number of civilian Palestinians with no connection to Hamas activities.”
They lament and explain, “Hamas's killing of ordinary Israeli citizens cannot be justified even by the cause Hamas claims to be fighting for. Equally, the hurt, anger, and sense of obligation by the Israeli government to avenge Hamas's acts and prevent it from causing further harm does not justify the means they apply towards this end as it results in the suffering and death of innocent Palestinians.”
SACBC members also weigh in on the reported disruption of water and electricity supply in Gaza since Hamas first attacked Israel, and call for the restoration of these services, as well as food supply and healthcare to the Palestinians.
According to an October 17 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) statement, Palestinians in Gaza are likely to face dehydration and suffer from waterborne diseases following the collapse of water and sanitation services, including the shutdown of seawater desalination plants.
The UN Agency adds that patients’ lives are hanging by a thread as hospitals across Gaza are running their generators on fuel reserves that may not last more than 24 hours.
In their October 16 statement, SACBC members implore, "We pray that our shared appreciation for the preciousness of life will see us finding a peaceful solution to the long-standing tension between these two nations.”
On October 13, the Archbishop of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese directed all Parishes in his Metropolitan See to pray for those affected by the Israel-Palestine violence that he said has created a “very troubling situation” in Holy Land.
“I ask all our parishes to hold in prayer the very troubling situation in Palestine/Israel and the Gaza Strip," Stephen Cardinal Brislin said in his statement that was also shared with ACI Africa.
Cardinal Brislin added, "The violence, destruction, and loss of life is deplorable and horrifying."
He expressed his sympathy with victims of the war, saying, "Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost loved ones, those who have been maimed, those who are displaced, and those who have been taken hostage.”
“The conflict potentially has terrible international consequences and could easily lead to a frightening escalation of violence,” the SACBC spokesperson, who was among the three Africans named Cardinals on July 9, and created Cardinals during the September 30 Consistory said in his October 13 two-page statement.