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
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
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.