Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Fourth Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Item 54: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
New York, 10 November 2015
My delegation has reviewed with great care the 2014 Annual Report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This and other Reports on the financial and various issues confronting UNRWA paint a very troubling picture.
Before addressing the issues, my delegation would like to extend condolences to the families of the UNRWA workers who have been killed while providing humanitarian aid to the victims of conflict and political turmoil. We also offer our heartfelt prayers for the UNRWA workers who have been injured in the line of duty.
The Holy See notes that the areas UNRWA has responsibilities include territories of the ancient Christian heartland where for two millennia Christians have been part and parcel of the culture and history of the region. Greatly reduced in number, they are today among the refugees served by UNRWA. Forced by a violent persecution and by the harsh geopolitical realities of the region, they have left their homes and have become internally displaced and refugees.
Like UNRWA and other organizations, various entities and organizations of the Catholic Church provides education, health-care and social services to the internally displaced and the refugees, which include educational programs for children and rehabilitation efforts for those physically and mentally traumatized by the incessant conflict. Those services are all provided on the basis of need, not creed, and are supported by generous donors associated with the Catholic Church around the globe.
As my delegation noted earlier, the Reports on UNRWA give us a most worrisome picture. The resources do not match the many needs. The peace process between Israel and Palestine has stalled. The ever-increasing tensions and violence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are of a grave concern to the Holy See. The Holy City of Jerusalem is the spiritual patrimony of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this context, the Holy See renews its support for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem, which should, inter alia, ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as the free and unhindered access to the Holy Places by the faithful of all religions and nationalities.
My delegation notes that in the 2014 UNRWA Report more than half a million registered Palestine refugees in Syria are finding their education and health-care facilities targeted by the warring parties. Some children have not been able to attend school for two or three years because of the use and abuse of schools by all parties to the conflict. As the injured victims of these battles increases in number, the number of facilities to care for them diminishes. Some Palestinian refugee camps, such as Yarmouk, are literally under siege with limited access to basic supplies. Many Palestinian refugees must flee again as their camps become targets of military actions. The Reports do not give us much hope that all these barbaric acts against the Palestinian refugees will end soon.
My delegation wishes once more to express deep gratitude and appreciation to the people of Lebanon and Jordan for their enduring collaboration with UNRWA, in particular taking care of Palestinian refugees, and for contending heroically, together with Turkey and some European countries, with the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria.
Lebanon, unfortunately without a President since May 2014, needs the support of the International Community to stabilize its institutions, protect its four million or so citizens and tend to some 1.5 million refugees from Syria.
Jordan, long a beacon in the acceptance of refugees into its borders, requires international assistance to take care of so many refugees, to guarantee security and social cohesion to its own people, and to fend off attempts by terrorist and extremist groups to push it into the spiral of violence in the region.
Peacemaking must replace the futile and counterproductive illogic of violence and war. Accessible humanitarian assistance for the refugees and internally displaced must replace the current flood of weapons flowing into the region from all over the globe.
Let us never give up the hope that the unquenchable quest for peace, so much desired and so much needed, will eventually dawn in that land so significant to all and so sacred to so many.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.