Amid the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See lauded Pope Francis’ continued calls for peace, stating that religious leaders often help two sides of a conflict foster trust. “Sometimes spiritual, religious leaders and interreligious dialogue can pave the way for a dialogue between two sides to a conflict,” Dr. Zion Evrony told CNA August 5. “It can abolish misconceptions, it can create trust, it can promote dialogue and build bridges to peace. In this respect interreligious dialogue can be a foundation between two sides to a conflict.” Referring to the “nota verbale” Pope Francis recently sent to all embassies accredited to the Holy See encouraging ambassadors to speak to their government leaders about greater peace efforts, Dr. Evrony observed that it contained “a collection of all of his previous calls for peace.” This, he said, “shows his concern for the promotion and achievement of peace in the Middle East.” “Pope Francis is a man of peace, committed to peace and it comes from his heart. He’s a great spiritual leader and there is great respect in Israel for Pope Francis.” Bringing to mind the Invocation for Peace held at the Vatican in June that gathered together both Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Dr. Evrony explained that “the invocation for peace was a religious, spiritual event, an important event here in Rome.” “It showed that different religions can get together, pray together and have a dialogue,” he said, also recalling the Pope’s recent phone call to Israeli president Shimon Peres, stating that they appreciate Pope Francis’ “commitment to peace and his calls for people to pray for peace.” Israel and Hamas have been embroiled in a month-long conflict after tensions soared following the murder of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager, whose death has been widely seen as a retaliation killing by Israeli extremists. More than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mainly soldiers, have died in the continuous rocket and missile fire, BBC News reports. According to Gaza’s health ministry, 1,867 people have been killed, with the U.N. stating that more than 1,300 were civilians, and more than 400 were children. Following four previous failed attempts at ceasefire agreements, Israel and Hamas agreed Aug. 4 on a 72 hour truce that began Aug. 5 in order to allow aid workers to bring assistance and supplies to those affected by the fighting in the Gaza Strip. “So far it has been holding,” Dr. Evrony explained, expressing that this “time we hope that the ceasefire will hold and will pave the way for a more durable, stable ceasefire.” Although aid workers and Gaza citizens are grateful that for the invaluable time to safely secure essential supplies, many remain skeptical that it will bring an end to the region’s ongoing violence. According to the BBC, Israeli officials have offered to extend the 3-day truce, but have received no response from Hamas, who still controls Gaza. “I think that we have to work together in achieving the elements of a durable ceasefire,” the ambassador explained.
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