Bishops reflect on New Zealand’s involvement in Middle East conflict

The conflict and ongoing violence in the Middle East and New Zealand’s involvement was discussed when the New Zealand Catholic Bishops gathered recently.

“While our concern is not only for Catholics, Catholic Syrians and Iraqis in New Zealand speak to us regularly about their deep concern for the desperate situation faced by family members in Syria and Iraq or who have become refugees. These insights about the effects the actions of ISIS are having on ordinary people are deeply moving. New Zealand cannot stand aloof from involvement when so many people are suffering and dying,” says Archbishop John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.

They reflected on the Holy Father’s recent message to the United Nations from August in particular “I write to you, Mr Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq. In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant articles of the United Nations Charter. The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to the cities and homes.”

The Bishops have written to the Prime Minister, John Key offering support for the cautious and measured approach to making decisions about New Zealand’s involvement and asking him to be open to further humanitarian assistance for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

“We’ve also urged the New Zealand Government to use its seat on the Security Council of the United Nations to find a way to move beyond the impasse on Iraq and Syria, and which will allow actions to be carried out under the UN banner.”

“We are aware of the difficult challenge this situation presents for countries and world leaders, and we offer the Prime Minister our prayers as he makes further decisions about New Zealand’s involvement.

“We encourage Catholics to remain steadfast in their prayers for the people affected by the conflict and for the world’s leaders – remaining hopeful that together we can bring lasting peace to the Middle East.