Johannes Paul II med appell om internasjonal solidaritet for flyktninger

VATICAN CITY, MAR 22, 2000 (VIS) - In mid-afternoon today Pope John Paul travelled two miles by car from the Basilica of the Nativity to the Deheisheh Refugee Camp, driving through the camp to the school where today's encounter took place.

It has been estimated that between three and four million people live in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimated in 1996 that Palestinian refugees number just over 3.3 million: 1.358,706 in Jordan in 10 refugee camps, 532,438 on the West Bank in 19 camps, 716,930 on the Gaza Strip in 9 camps, 352,668 in Lebanon in 12 camps and 347,391 in Syria in 10 camps.

Representatives of the refugee camp, as well as President Yasser Arafat, attended the meeting with the Pope. The school which hosted the encounter has 1,125 students between the ages of 6 and 15.

«It is important to me that my pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ includes this visit to Dheisheh,» began the Holy Father. «It is deeply significant that here, close to Bethlehem, I am meeting you, refugees and displaced persons, and representatives of the organizations and agencies involved in a true mission of mercy. Throughout my pontificate I have felt close to the Palestinian people in their sufferings.

«I greet each one of you,» John Paul II continued, «and I hope and pray that my visit will bring some comfort in your difficult situation. Please God it will help to draw attention to your continuing plight. You have been deprived of many things which represent basic needs of the human person: proper housing, health care, education and work. Above all you bear the sad memory of what you were forced to leave behind, not just material possessions, but your freedom, the closeness of relatives, and the familiar surroundings and cultural traditions which nourished your personal and family life.»

He highlighted the work being done by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and by the presence of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and many other Catholic organizations.

The Holy Father then affirmed that «the degrading conditions in which refugees often have to live; the continuation over long periods of situations that are barely tolerable in emergencies or for a brief time of transit; the fact that displaced persons are obliged to remain for years in settlement camps: these are the measure of the urgent need for a just solution to the underlying causes of the problem. Only a resolute effort on the part of leaders in the Middle East and in the international community as a whole B inspired by a higher vision of politics as service of the common good B can remove the causes of your present situation. My appeal is for greater international solidarity and the political will to meet this challenge.» He added that justice is «an inalienable right» of all men and women.

The Pope asked young people «to continue to strive through education to take your rightful place in society, despite the difficulties and handicaps that you have to face because of your refugee status.»

He told refugees not to «think that your present condition makes you any less important in God's eyes! Never forget your dignity as His children!»

Pope John Paul urged aid workers and volunteers to «believe in the task that you are fulfilling! Genuine and practical solidarity with those in need is not a favor conceded, it is a demand of our shared humanity and a recognition of the dignity of every human being.»

Following this encounter the Pope paid a courtesy call on Yasser Arafat at the president's palace in Bethlehem. Afterwards he travelled by helicopter the short distance to Jerusalem and the apostolic delegation where he had dinner and spent the night.

Vatican Information Service

av Webmaster publisert 29.03.2000, sist endret 29.03.2000 - 00:23