The following letter was approved by all members of the Provincial Council and sent to President George Bush, Secretary of State Rice, and the Democratic and Republican leadership of the House and Senate Foreign Relation Committees:
August 2, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush,
As Franciscan friars ministering to hundreds of thousands Catholics on the East Coast of the United States, we are deeply grieved and troubled by the ongoing violence between Israel and Hezbollah. In particular, we deplore the fact that so many innocent non-combatants have been affected by this unabated and unconscionable violence. In this challenging hour, we urge you to apply your presidential leadership and the full weight of the United States, acting in concert with the international community, to achieve an immediate cease-fire and to further an intensive diplomatic initiative for the cessation of hostilities. This is a necessary first step toward finding a long-term and sustainable solution to the violence in Lebanon and the way toward a comprehensive Middle East peace that includes resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we have been active in the Holy Land and in that region for nearly 800 years, serving the Christian and non-Christian communities. On July 7, 2006, our Franciscan brothers in the Holy Land, in unison with the Patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem, made an impassioned plea to “stop all the violence and pursue a just peace.” Repeating that message, we too recognize that it is impossible to place blame for the current conflict on one party alone. We are in unanimity with their statement, “All human beings, Israelis and Palestinians, have the same dignity and must be equally treated. All aggression against human dignity, whether Israeli or Palestinian, must stop.”
Our Franciscan tradition of hope and reconciliation is contrary to those who claim that peace in the Holy Land and in that region is unrealistic or unattainable at this time. It is equally incompatible with those who hold a view that brute power and military might can achieve and guarantee security. We, guided by our religious tradition and faith, firmly believe that Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible, and that a negotiated solution could be achieved through a non-violent means even now. We also believe that it is not only essential for a peace and security of Israelis, Lebanese, and Palestinians but also for reducing the threat of global terrorism, encouraging democracy in the region and building world peace.
We know that our constituencies in the United States pray for and support intensified U.S. diplomatic efforts to bring an end to violence and peace to Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.
Therefore, Mr. President, we urge your support for the following important, timely steps and pledge our support for your efforts:
- Demand that the Israeli government immediately halt its attacks in Lebanon, and that Hezbollah and Hamasstop engaging in violence against Israel.
- We believe such a cessation in hostilities could only be maintained if an internationally sponsored and fully supported peacekeeping force be put in place as quickly as possible in southern Lebanon to assist Lebanon’s democratically elected government in securing their own borders. We support your efforts towards this in working with the U.N. Security Council.
- Immediately take the necessary steps to avert and address the growing humanitarian disaster in southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip.
- Finally, there must be open and honest dialogue that includes all the parties of the conflicts, both state and non-state actors. Such dialogue must include the full support of international partners and be open to addressing the wider conflicts beyond the current tragedy between Israel and Hezbollah.
On behalf of our Franciscan brothers in the Holy Land and all the innocent people who are caught in this tragic conflict, we thank you, in advance, for your leadership. May you allow God to make you an instrument of His peace, in the land that is so precious to Him.
Very Reverend John F. O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Minister
Reverend Dominic V. Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar
Brother Christopher Coccia, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Brother F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Reverend Francis Di Spigno, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Reverend Daniel P. Dwyer, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Reverend Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Reverend Andrew Reitz, OFM, Provincial Councilor
Brother Michael Harlan, OFM, Provincial Secretary