Young people in the Holy Land must endure unemployment, a scarcity of opportunities and daily violations of their dignity, and yet their example keeps hope alive in the face of the failings of their political leaders and the international community.
This was the message from the visiting Bishops of the Holy Land Co-ordination at the end of their stay in Israel and the Palestinian Territories from 13–18 January. The bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa also declared President Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as "morally and legally unacceptable".
The bishops visited Gaza and met schoolchildren in the West Bank and in Israel, along with students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and from Bethlehem University. They also visited the L'Arche community in Bethlehem and a home for the elderly in Beit Emmaus.
They said: "Young people in Gaza continue to be robbed of their life chances by the enduring blockade, which indiscriminately denies them the opportunity to flourish. Young people in the West Bank continue to suffer violations of their dignity on a daily basis, which have become unacceptably normalised by occupation. Young lives throughout the Palestinian Territories are blighted by unemployment.
"For a whole generation the prospect of peace has been made even more remote by morally and legally unacceptable decisions – in particular the recent affront to the internationally recognised status of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
"The young people of the Holy Land have been consistently failed by both their own leaders and the international community. The anger that we witnessed is entirely justified – it is also a sign that they retain the conviction to strive for change.
"Throughout the West Bank, Gaza and Israel the youth are keeping hope alive through their resilience and courage. The local Christian community, though small in number, is an integral part of this, not only through the contribution of its own youth, but also through its service to all young people.
"It is young people who are daring to pursue justice and challenge the divisions that have been forced upon them. It is schools and youth projects that are breaking down barriers and equipping people to build tolerance. It is young volunteers, such as those working with L'Arche in Bethlehem, Beit Emmaus in Qubeibeh, and religious orders in Gaza, who are demonstrating humanity in this wounded society."
The bishops urged Catholics at home to support Christians in the Holy Land "through supporting organisations which help to create jobs, provide housing and facilitate dialogue; through prayer and making pilgrimages which encounter and support local people; and through standing resolutely against all those who seek to create further division, especially among our own political leadership."