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Gaza: prayers for peace as violence escalates

18 July 2014


Plume: smoke rises over Gaza City after what police said was an Israeli air strike

Plume: smoke rises over Gaza City after what police said was an Israeli air strike

THE Egyptian-led diplomatic efforts to end the violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel have been conducted against a background of calls from church leaders for prayers for peace. There have also been appeals to help the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which is struggling to cope with the rising number of casualties.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement on Monday that he was "deeply saddened and distressed by the eruption and escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and across Israel. As we continue urgently to hold the people of the region in our prayers, we must pray also for all people of good will to come together to protect the innocent and promote peace in the land."

About 200 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israeli bombardments. At least one Israeli has been killed by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. One of the causes of the recent escalation in violence was the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers. While Hamas never admitted ordering or carrying out the abduction, the subsequent murder of a Palestinian youth prompted Hamas leaders to condone and then encourage the firing of rockets into Israel.

Archbishop Welby said that the abductions and murders were "senseless crimes" that were "wicked, and must be condemned by decent people everywhere". He continued: "As each day passes we see more innocent lives, including those of children, lost in the terrible cycle of revenge - no good can possibly come of this. It makes the search for a lasting peace that much harder and more elusive. We must all join hands to appeal to all sides to show restraint and to seek the way of dialogue to end all conflict in the region."

Pope Francis, on Sunday, called on "all interested parties and those with political responsibility, both on a local and international level, not to spare their prayers, and not to spare their efforts to achieve the cessation of all hostilities and the desired peace for the good of all."

Earlier, the diocese in Jerusalem said that it was continuing to "hold the people of Gaza and the region in its prayers, hoping that the violence will end soon". As the bombing and rocket fire continued, the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, said that he was "in regular communication with Al-Ahli Hospital there to ensure that staff and family are safe".

In a subsequent urgent appeal to church partners for aid (www.j-diocese.org), Bishop Darwani said that, "like many hospitals in Gaza, Al-Ahli Hospital is receiving patients who have been wounded, with staff working around the clock to provide them with critical medical care. At the same time, Al-Ahli is experiencing shortages in medicine, fuel, and food for both patients and those in the community who need help."

The impact of Israeli air strikes, the Bishop continued, "has caused structural damage to the hospital, including the ventilation system in the operating theatre and the emergency room. In addition, windows have been broken in many buildings."

The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is also appealing for financial assistance for Al-Ahli Hospital (http://pwrdf.org/). The Fund has announced an initial grant of about £15,000 to the Norwegian Church Aid appeal through the Action by Churches Together Alliance to help with the care of patients, and psychosocial support to hundreds of women and children affected by the Israeli offensive who are looking to Al-Ahli for treatment.

Appeals on behalf of the hospital have been endorsed by Bishop John Chapman of the Ottawa diocese, which supports the hospital. He has also urged Canadian Anglicans to pray for an end to the violence in Gaza.

The bloodshed and destruction in and around Gaza constitute merely one component in a region consumed by war and political instability, with the Christian minority communities finding themselves squeezed in most of the battle zones. The creation of a self-styled Islamic Caliphate in large parts of Iraq and Syria, for example, offers Iraqi and Syrian Christians little hope for a future in their homelands.

The Chaldean Archbishop Yousif Mirkis, from Kirkuk in northern Iraq, now under Kurdish control, told the Catholic charity Aid to Church in Need that Christians were "in the process of disappearing" from his country.

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