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Freeing hostages ‘first step’ toward end of the war

 Freeing hostages ‘first step’  toward end of the war  ING-048
01 December 2023

The release of several hostages is a first step towards the end of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, offered that reaction to the development, in the following telephone interview with Vatican News.

How would you comment on the news of the last hours?

The fact that an agreement has been reached on the release of at least some of the hostages is positive, because so far the only channel of communication has been military. Instead, in this way, a first step has been taken towards easing both internal and international tension. It is also a way to start implementing solutions other than military ones: I mean solutions for the end of the conflict.

There have been different reactions to the news of the release of the hostages, certainly of satisfaction. But there were also some commentators who believe that, in fact, the negotiation itself represents a defeat in some way…

Those who — let’s call them the “hawks” — want to identify peace with victory may think so. But peace, the solution to the conflict, cannot be an absolute victory. It does not exist. So, it is clear that the solution cannot be left only to the military. It is clear that politics must take control of the situation, offering perspectives above all, because the military has none. It is clear, therefore, that negotiations and the release of hostages are the first steps to then start paths of political perspectives for Gaza after this war. This is what is needed.

We have heard news that displaced people in the northern part of Gaza are trying to return to what, in most cases, I imagine, are destroyed homes. What does this mean?

As far as I could understand, this possibility does not yet exist. Some want to return because the situation, even in the south of Gaza, where all these millions of people are crowded, is not easy. So they want to get out of there; I understand that very well. Even our Christians who are locked inside that small church compound can hardly take it anymore. But as long as there are no clear political perspectives or clarity about the next phases, this is still not possible and can also be dangerous.

How can terrorism be defeated? How can an ideology like that of Hamas be defeated?

It’s not easy. It is necessary to remove, little by little, patiently — it takes a long time — everything that feeds that ideology. So, we must remove the roots. It is useless to cut the branches because these can grow back. First of all, we must give the Palestinians a perspective. I said this, and I know that it did not please many: a national perspective must be given to them, which they still do not have. This war is a very clear testimony that the two peoples cannot coexist, at least not at this moment. They will have to have clear, defined, precise prospects, more than has been done so far. Then there is another aspect. Hamas is also a religious ideology. Therefore, interreligious dialogue is very important, just as it is very important to foster a religious discourse that is not centered on hatred.

What can we do as Christians, but generally as people who, even though living far from those places, feel close to them, because they are the places of the earthly life of Jesus? What can be done at the level of public opinion as well?

First of all, believers can pray, which is the first thing to do. Then, there is also a real, even humanitarian, need for support. Another important aspect: I have noticed that strong divisions have been created in the world, one against the other. It almost seems impossible to love both sides. I believe that it is important, as Christians, to be clear in our speech but not exclusive. Call things by their name, in the truth, and at the same time try to keep relationships open with everyone and tell everyone, both sides, that we love them.

By Andrea Tornielli