The Rt Rev Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton and Chair of the Holy Land Coordinating Committee, has released a statement on the situation in the Cremisan Valley:
“The Holy Land Coordinating Committee notes with dismay the decision of the Israeli Special Appeals Committee endorsing the route of the separation wall which will have the effect of separating the Salesian Sisters Convent, the Sisters school and the lands of 58 Palestinian families from Beit Jala to the Israeli settlement area of Gilo.
“We have visited the Cremisan Valley on several occasions and have a keen sense of the difficulties for Palestinians that will flow from this decision. These include the damage to the land that will result from the construction of the wall, the separation of the landowners from their lands, the environmental degradation and the loss of livelihood that will make the ever dwindling Palestinian population even more vulnerable and further dispossessed of lands and income.
“On a purely religious level, the wall will also prevent the traditional religious May processions from Cremisan to Beit Jala and will prevent the centuries old Christmas processions beginning at the Monastery of Mar Elias.
“We state again our deep concern that this decision is aimed as much at security concerns as it is with consolidating the settlement areas which will ultimately produce a choking ring of settlements around Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
“The Church in the Holy land has repeatedly called for the wall to follow the route of the Green Line. We continue to hope that the appeal against this decision will yield different results which will honour the demands of justice, fairness and respect for the land all who own and work on it.
“We make our own the sentiments of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal that ‘the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and justice and does not strengthen the position of the moderates.’
We join our prayers to the prayers of the people in that area for a just solution to this protracted struggle.”
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