Church leaders’ fears for Holy Land

08 January 2009

by Gerald Butt

THE GAZA CONFLICT has been condemned as strongly by Church leaders as by politicians. The Archbishop of Canterbury called on Jews, Muslims, and Christians to unite, and urged “all those who have the power to halt this spiral of violence to do so. Those raising the stakes through the con­tinuation of indiscriminate violence seem to have forgotten nothing, and learned nothing.”

Without a serious international initiative to achieve peace, he said, “the future for the Holy Land and the whole region is one of more fear, innocent suffering, and destruction.”

The Most Revd Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “Everyone I meet at this time speaks with immense sadness of the suffering and destruction in Gaza and the fears of the people in Israel because of rocket attacks.” There must be an immediate end to all violence, he said.

The Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, said that members of the three Abrahamic faiths were “greatly grieved by the severity of the ongoing military operations in Gaza that are occur­ring in heavily populated areas and im­pacting on the civilian population”.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, said that the “high number of deaths and injuries, which continue to include women and children, will only prolong the violence years into the future.”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, called for “an immediate cessation to the horrific violence. I urge resumption of diplomatic negotiations as the means of recon­ciling the historic tensions between the peoples of Israel and Palestine.”

The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, chairman of the Council of Chris­tians and Jews in Britain, said his organisation was “deeply distressed” by the “suffering of the people of Gaza and Israel”.

The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem said it wished that “Hamas and other Palestinian factions had chosen a non-violent way to resist the Israeli siege.” Its statement went on to say: “The disproportionate use of mili­tary force against the Gaza Strip and the number of casualties it produced must be strongly condemned.”

A spokesman for the aid agency World Vision, referring to the deaths at a UN school, said on Wednesday: “The UN-administered facilities should be a safe haven for vulnerable citizens, especially children. Any attack on safe havens is deplorable.

“These attacks signify a shift in the level the IDF is prepared to go in its battle against the threat of Hamas’s rocket attacks, and it’s frightening.”

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