Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice to take renewed action to build on steps toward peace in the Middle East and work toward long term stability in the region in separate letters, January 20.
Bishop Cantú, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to Secretary Kerry that the United States should build on the success of the Iran nuclear deal by pursuing peace in Syria and greater political stability in in the region. This could be aided, he wrote, in large part through increased humanitarian assistance.
“If peace talks are successful, the United States and the international community will need to provide robust assistance to help rebuild Syria so that refugees can return and the social fabric can be repaired,” wrote Bishop Cantú. “Post-war desperation will only fuel renewed conflict and extremism. It is particularly important that Syrian refugees in Lebanon have the opportunity to return to their country so as to restore the delicate demographic balance necessary for stability in Lebanon.”
In his letter to Ambassador Rice, Bishop Cantú noted that his recent visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan showed him that the status quo is “dangerous for both Israelis and Palestinians.” He also noted that the conflict has been harmful to the Church in the Holy Land and that the situations in Gaza and the Cremisan Valley required urgent attention.
“As Pope Francis has said on a number of occasions, we need to build bridges, not walls. I pray that the United States will help build a bridge to peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Bishop Cantú wrote. “We cannot forget their plight.”