THE strategies on both sides of the current war in Gaza are
self-defeating, and cannot bring about peace, the Archbishop of
Canterbury has said.
In a long statement released on Wednesday, Archbishop Welby
condemned both the firing of rockets into Israeli towns by Hamas,
and the aerial bombing of civilian areas in Gaza by Israel.
"Populations condemned to hopelessness, or living under fear,
will be violent," he said. "Such actions create more conflict, more
deaths, and will, in the end, lead to an even greater disaster than
the one being faced today. The road to reconciliation is hard, but
ultimately [is] the only route to security."
Praising the humanitarian efforts of the diocese in Jerusalem,
Archbishop Welby urged Christians in the West to "beat down the
doors of heaven, and pray for peace and justice and security".
His comments were echoed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. In a statement on Thursday,
he said: "The pain, anguish and sense of hopelessness of those men,
women and children cry out that war is not the answer. As this
conflict shows, violence breeds violence.
"I plead for an immediate truce in Gaza that will not only put
an end to this latest carnage but that will also address at last
the core problems behind this conflict which has so blighted the
lives of all the peoples of the Holy Land."
Archbishop Wrlby also urged people to give to the diocese of
Jerusalem's emergency appeal for more than £300,000 to run its
Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. So far, the diocese in Jerusalem
says, donations have reached less than one-fifth of the target. The
Bishop's Chaplain in Jerusalem, Canon John Organ, said on Tuesday
that, overall, although some individuals had contributed money,
"the pledges have not yet materialised into solid funds."
The biggest items on Al-Ahli Hospital's list of needs is
psycho-social support for women and children ($100,000), medical
supplies ($95,000), and fuel ($60,000) (www.j-diocese.org).
Among the contributions received so far are donations in kind
from the Catholic Relief Services in the form of medical kits, and
$5000-worth of fuel for the hospital generators. Canon Organ said
that supplies were reaching Al-Ahli Hospital via the Red Cross;
however, more funds were urgently needed. The view of staff at
Al-Ahli, he said, was that the current bombardment was the worst
ever in terms of the number of people killed and wounded.
Palestinians in Gaza enjoyed only a brief lull in the violence
on Monday, as Muslims worldwide celebrated the end of the sacred
month of Ramadan. The tiny Christian community in Gaza City opened
up the courtyard of St Porphyrius's to provide sanctuary for
Muslims marking the day of celebration. About 500 people made
homeless by the fighting were already sheltering in the church.
More than 1200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks
on Gaza, and 55 Israelis have been killed during the conflict. At
least one Christian is among the Palestinian fatalities: Jalila
Ayad died when her family's house collapsed during an airstrike
last Sunday. One of her sons was seriously wounded. Her funeral was
held at St Porphyrius's.
The Christian humanitarian organisation World Vision says that
it continues to support 7000 mothers whom it has trained in what it
calls Psychological First Aid, to help their children cope with
traumatic events. The programme began after the previous war in
Gaza, in November 2012. In a statement, World Vision said that the
training had been of great benefit during this cycle of violence,
as mothers could support their children and help them deal with
fear and anxiety.
World Vision ended its statement with a call for "an immediate
halt to this vicious cycle of violence, and for a lasting and just
peace in the region".
The national director of World Vision's Jerusalem, West Bank,
and Gaza office, Alex Snary, said that children were witnessing
things that they would never forget. "The trauma they are exposed
to can take years to recover from, and is for ever imprinted in the
memory. It transforms a child's understanding of how the world
works and how they need to behave in order to survive. No child,
whether Israeli or Palestinian, should have to live this way."
Calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from all over the
world. Pope Francis last Sunday deviated from his script to make an
impassioned plea, apparently choking back tears as he spoke:
"Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop,
The Evangelical Episcopal Church's Bishop in Israel & the
Palestinian territories, Dr Hani Shehadeh, and four other churchmen
from the Holy Land wrote to the Church Times this week
urging Christians to pray for peace.
They urge all Christians to stand up for the rights of the
Christian family in the Middle East: "Lobby your parliament, speak
up in your media, and pray for the well-being and safety of
Christians facing persecution." The letter said that the latest
conflict in Gaza meant that "the Christian community of this corner
of the Holy Land faces extinction."
Kairos Britain, a network of individuals, organisations, and
faith communities seeking peace in Gaza and Israel, also urged
people to ask their MPs to influence politicians to end the
fighting in Gaza. The group called for "prayers for an end to the
violence, and for the creation of a just peace for Palestinians,
which we believe is the only way to bring about peace and security
for Israel, too".