In a declaration issued by the Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, Church leaders decried ongoing violence in the region, criticizing leaders’ closed-mindedness, and calling for peaceful negotiations.

“To these we also say: Violence as a response to violence breeds only more violence,” the  July 8 declaration stated.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more,” the declaration began, quoting the prophet Jeremiah. Issued by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, the declaration lamented the many who have fallen victim to the latest round of the violence “that plagues this land.” “Some of their faces are well known because the media have covered their lives in detail…whereas others — by far more numerous — are mere statistics, nameless and faceless.” “The selective coverage, mourning and memory are themselves part of the cycle of violence,” the assembly observed, and prayed that “those that have fallen recently will be the last to die violent deaths in this escalation of hatred and vengeance.” Going on, the assembly lamented the region’s continuous cycle of violence, stating that their hope of ending it is “shattered by the irresponsible language of collective punishment and revenge that breeds violence and suffocates the emergence of any alternative.” “Many in positions of power and political leadership remain entrenched, not only unwilling to enter into any real and meaningful process of dialogue but also pouring oil on the fire with words and acts that nurture the conflict.” Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian have soared in recent weeks following the murder of three Israeli teenagers — Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16 — and Eyal Yifrah, 19, whose bodies were found June 30 in shallow graves near the West Bank after their June 12 disappearance. Following the discovery of the teenagers’ bodies, Israel launched 34 airstrikes over the Gaza Strip, which officials stated was a response to 18 rockets that had previously been fired into Israel from Gaza. Blasts from both sides have continued, despite a proposed ceasefire last week. In what is being called an act of retaliation for the killing of the Israeli teens, extremists kidnapped and murdered Mohammed Abu Khdair, a 16-year-old from Palestine. His body was found June 2 in West Jerusalem following the funeral of the three Israeli teenagers. “The violent language of the street in Israel that calls for vengeance is fed by the attitudes and expressions of a leadership that continues to foster a discriminatory discourse promoting exclusive rights of one group and the occupation with all of its disastrous consequences,” the declaration went on to say. “Settlements are built, lands are confiscated, families are separated, loved ones are arrested and even assassinated,” it stated. Observing how occupation leadership “seems to believe that the occupation can be victorious by crushing the will of the people for freedom and dignity,” the assembly explained that they “seem to believe that their determination will ultimately silence opposition and transform wrong into right.” On the other hand the declaration also denounced “the violent language of the Palestinian street that calls for vengeance,” noting that it is “fed by the attitudes and expressions of those who have despaired of any hope to reach a just solution to the conflict through negotiations.” “Those who seek to build a totalitarian, monolithic society, in which there is no room for any difference or diversity, gain popular support, exploiting this situation of hopelessness,” it went on. Referring to the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers as well as the “brutal vengeance killing of the Palestinian youth,” the assembly emphasized that both are “products of the injustice and of the hatred that the occupation fosters in the hearts of those prone to such deeds.” “Using the death of the three Israelis to exact collective punishment on the Palestinian people as a whole and on its legitimate desire to be free is a tragic exploitation of tragedy and promotes more violence and hatred.” Drawing attention to the invocation for peace in Israel and Palestine that was held at the Vatican last month, the declaration highlighted the importance of Pope Francis’ words when he told the presidents of each country that “Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.” In order to end the cycle of violence a “radical change” is needed on the part of everyone involved, the assembly observed, and that change begins with the need “to shake off any leadership that feeds on the cycle of violence.” “We must find and support leaders who are determined to work for justice and peace, recognizing that God has planted here three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and two peoples: Palestinian and Israeli.” “Such leaders,” the declaration read, “have the vocation to be healers, peace makers, seekers of justice and visionaries of the alternatives to the cycle of violence.” Calling attention to the role of religious leaders in the area, the assembly affirmed that it is their task “to speak a prophetic language that reveals the alternatives beyond the cycle of hatred and violence.” The declaration concluded by pointing out how this language “opens up the possibility of seeing each one as brother or sister.” Quoting Pope Francis’ speech at the invocation for peace, the declaration affirmed that “We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word ‘brother.’” “But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father.”