Statement from Bishop of Lancaster on Middle East crisis

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Bishop of LancasterBishop Patrick O'Donoghue issued the following statement on 21st July 2006:

I read with deep sadness and alarm of the intensifying conflict between Israel and Hizbollah in the Lebanon ­ the mounting innocent civilian casualties and deaths on both sides of the border cannot be allowed to continue. Besides, there is enough suffering in Gaza and the Palestinian issue has yet to be resolved.

The United Nations has confirmed that an estimated 400,000 civilians have already been displaced, leaving the Lebanese government struggling to provide for these traumatised families pouring into Beirut. Terrorist attacks on one side and retaliatory military strikes on the other will only feed into a downward spiral of more causalities, deaths and infrastructural destruction.

It is also deeply worrying that this conflict could escalate into a wider Middle East conflagration. I understand a State's right to self-defence but this does not excuse it from respecting the norms of international humanitarian law governing conflict, especially when it involves the protection of innocent civilians.

I pray for all victims of this conflict and their families. I pray that both sides show immense restraint and allow diplomacy to work, especially the efforts of the current UN peace mission. I recall the words of the Holy Father: "the only path worthy of our civilisation is that of sincere dialogue between the contending parties." This is what history teaches us.

Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue

Bishop of Lancaster