SÃO PAULO – Calling Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip “a true genocide,” a commission of the Brazilian bishops’ conference seen as representing the progressive, social justice-oriented wing of the Church has issued a public letter expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The conference’s Justice and Peace Commission, known by the acronym CBJP in Portuguese, released the letter last week, which has been signed by more than 100 civic organizations, including dozens of Church movements, congregations, and even a prelature.
Protestant Churches, various left-wing movements and human rights organizations, an Islamic center, and an association of anti-Zionist Jews are also among the signatories.
Many progressives in the Brazilian Church have expressed dissatisfaction that by and large, the country’s bishops have not spoken out concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza. The commission’s letter was thus seen by many observers as a response from laity and social ministries to the perceived silence of the bishops.
The letter affirms that Israel’s strikes are a response to Hamas’s operation on Oct. 7, which “resorted to reprehensible methods that we all repudiate.”
Yet it also says that a “terrifying percentage of children, women and the elderly” has been killed or injured amid the Israeli assaults, something that “has motivated appeals from all over the world, including those from Pope Francis and from the UN Secretary General, for the civilian population’s urgent rescue.”
Such a demand is imperative, otherwise “we would become mere spectators, or worse, accomplices of a true genocide,” the statement reads.
The declaration asks for a “lasting humanitarian ceasefire” and for the protection of the civilian populations in Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Israel. The signatories affirm that only by respecting international law and the United Nations’s resolutions the conflict will be solved.
“Given that this is a matter of humanitarian nature, which has to do with the provision of vital assistance to two million human beings trapped and exposed day and night to land, sea and air bombings, silence is a signal of connivance and omission,” it says.
The document concludes calling for “two sovereign states, equal in rights, that allow Palestinian and Israelis to live in peace” and with a citation from Pope Francis’s encyclical Fratelli Tutti, which says that “violence leads to more violence, hatred to more hatred, death to more death.”
Daniel Seidel, who heads the commission, told Crux that the letter is the product of “numerous talks with several groups committed to the defense of human rights which could not remain silent in times like these.”
“In tune with Pope Francis and with the cry of so many Catholics and activists in Brazil, we wished to manifest our concern with the Palestinian people and our solidarity to them,” he affirmed.
He emphasized that many grassroots Catholic movements had been eager to express their viewpoint on the Middle Eastern events.
“We couldn’t remain silent only to avoid problems with conservative groups. In times of synodality, we have been more and more looking for ways to be able to express ourselves,” Seidel said.
Maria Luiza Alessio, who coordinates the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife’s Justice and Peace Commission, one of the signatories of the document, told Crux that it was about time to release a letter with that nature.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to have a prophetic voice. What’s happening in Gaza is a great injustice. We had to express our stance on that,” she affirmed.
Roberto Saraiva, who heads the Bishops’ Conference’s Migrants’ Pastoral Service, emphasized that most social pastoral ministries joined the signatories of the document.
“Our goal is to defend life. An atrocity is being perpetrated against the Palestinians, and it has not begun today. Peace is the way for humankind and war is an insanity that dehumanizes and sickens society,” he told Crux.
Another social pastoral ministry that signed the letter was the Bishops’ Conference’s Indigenous Missionary Council (known as CIMI), which gives assistance to Indigenous groups all over Brazil in the struggle for their original territories and for policies to ensure their rights.
According to Roberto Liebgott, a CIMI coordinator in the Southern part of Brazil, different Indigenous peoples have been taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
“The capitalist world has been silent in the face of the genocide carried out by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. Israel has been killing without distinction innocents and children, taking their future from them,” he told Crux.
Since the letter was released, the Brazilian episcopate has not made any official statement about it or about the Palestinian issue. No bishop responded to Crux’s interview requests.