Pierbattista Pizzaballa © Hadas Parush (CBA)
The Middle East is looking back on a difficult year, according to the administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. And the prospects for 2017 did not exactly make him optimistic.
CBA: Your balance for 2016 is very modest…
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa (Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem): This year has been a very difficult year with many problems for Christians in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Cairo. We have thousands of Christian refugees throughout the region, including in Jordan. We face the phenomenon of growing fundamentalism, especially in Jordan, but also here in Israel and Palestine. For example, we have to deplore acts of vandalism and attacks on our churches and cemeteries. I hope 2017 will be a bit more boring in this respect. We must work with all political and religious authorities to prevent this radicalization.
CBA: Is there at least progress in the Holy Land?
Pizzaballa: We are tired of slogans. Everyone talks about peace, peace initiatives, peace process. All this degenerates into mere slogans because in reality there are no results. Nothing is happening at the political level. The economic situation, especially for the Palestinians, is very difficult, the unemployment rate is problematically high. We see growing frustration, especially among young people, and many problems that we cannot solve. But it is very important that religious leaders and institutions work to prevent this frustration from becoming fundamentalism. We are therefore engaged in educational work, among other things.
CBA: What is your outlook for the next year?
Pizzaballa: In 2017 we are faced by the same challenges, unfortunately: radicalism, the lack of a political perspective, the lack of negotiation. All this leads to a context of frustration, because apart from the slogans and political initiatives, nothing concrete happens. We have to tell people that despite everything we have to be strong and hope. We must not only complain about what has not been done, but we must see what is possible on a small scale. It is not the time for big gestures, but for small gestures in schools and parishes, in city councils and so on – so that people see that, despite everything, it is possible to do something.
The interview was conducted by Andrea Krogmann.