Press Release
March 19, 2001

Contact: Nancy Small at 814-453-4955 Ext. 227


Pax Christi USA Denounces Israeli Detainment of its

International President and Religious Repression of Palestinians


Pax Christi USA denounces the increasing actions of the Israeli army to prevent the free movement of Palestinians in and around Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The detainment of His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the president of Pax Christi International, by Israeli forces on Friday, March 9 clearly illustrates the heightened actions of the Israeli army to repress the Palestinian people and suppress their freedom of religious expression.

In clear violation of international law and diplomatic precedence, Patriarch Sabbah was stopped by Israeli soldiers while trying to enter the village of Ein Arik near Ramallah to celebrate mass at the parish church.  The Patriarch presented his Holy See diplomatic passport and his VIP card issued by the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs, but the Israeli forces refused to let the Patriarch enter and detained him for a period of time before releasing him.  On the previous day, Patriarch Sabbah was prevented from entering the village of Bir Zeit to celebrate mass because the village had been blockaded by the Israeli army.

In the past several months, we have seen increasing repression inflicted on the Palestinian people through closure policies, home demolitions, and increasing use of military force.  Many Palestinians have lost their jobs due to blockades.  These closures, including the recent blockade of Ramallah, a major Palestinian city of 60,000 people, threaten the Palestinian people with further loss of jobs and prevent free access to food, water, medical treatment, communication and other basic necessities.  These actions constitute a violation of human rights under the standards of international law, including the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights.

Pax Christi USA demands an immediate end to these violations of human rights by the Israeli government and army and insists that all human rights and basic freedoms granted by international law be upheld.  We join with the U.S. Catholic bishops, who said, “The future of the Middle East must be built on mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation, not hatred or exclusion or occupation.”

As Pope John Paul II said in a letter to Patriarch Sabbah, “All individuals [must] see their fundamental rights guaranteed: both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are equally entitled to live in their own homeland in dignity and security.”


Pax Christi USA Action Suggestions

Pax Christi USA encourages its members and the national and international Catholic community to take the following actions:

1.  Send an email to the following members of the Israeli government demanding an immediate end to the human rights violations by the Israeli government and insisting that all basic freedoms granted by international law be upheld.


* Mr. Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minster at

* Mr. Benyamin Ben Eliezer, Israel’s minister of defense at

* Mr. Shimon Peres, Israel’s foreign minister at

* The Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. at


2.  Mail, fax or email a letter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Colin Powell demanding that the U.S. utilize its close diplomatic ties with Israel to bring human rights violations by the Israeli government to an immediate end.


* President George W. Bush, The White House, Washington, DC 20500; Email:; White House Comment Desk:  (phone) 202-456-1111; (fax) 202-456-2416

* Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense, The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301; (phone) 703-695-5261; (fax:) 703-679-9080.


Insist that the Israeli government:

Put an end to the restrictions on movement imposed on the Palestinian population.
Grant immediate access of the residents affected by the closure policy to essential supplies including water, food and medical care.
Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

Pax Christi USA is the national Catholic peace movement. Its 14,000 members work for the transformation of society through nonviolence and advocate peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States. The movement, headquartered in Erie, Pa., publishes peace education literature and develops ministry programs that promote justice for the sake of creating a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. Pax Christi USA is a section of Pax Christi International, which is active in more than 30 countries.


For more information or media interviews, contact Nancy Small, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA, at 814-453-4955 Ext. 227.


Phyllis Turner Jepson, Coordinator
Local/Regional Coordinator's Office
Pax Christi USA - A National Section of the International Catholic Peace Movement