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Archbishop of Canterbury voices concern at Israeli arrest in West Bank

10 April 2024

Condemnation of killing of seven aid workers in Gaza continues

Bishop of Southwark/X

Layan Nasir, a 23-year-old woman who attends St Peter’s, Birzeit, had been arrested

Layan Nasir, a 23-year-old woman who attends St Peter’s, Birzeit, had been arrested

THE Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, have expressed their concern after a member of an Anglican congregation in the occupied West Bank was arrested by Israeli forces on Saturday.

On Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Welby said that he was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the news that Layan Nasir, a 23-year-old woman who attends St Peter’s, Birzeit, had been arrested.

In a social-media post, he asked followers to “pray for Layan’s safety and swift release”. Bishop Chessun also encouraged people to join in his prayers. Ms Nasir, he wrote, had been “snatched from her family by Israeli troops at 4am on Saturday without giving any reason”.

The family were unaware of her whereabouts until Wednesday, when they were told that Ms Nasir was being held in Damon Prison, in Israel.

“We do not know anything else. We do not know if she is well, or even if she is alive, as no contact at all is permitted,” Ms Nasir’s mother, Lulu Nasir, said. “We are so worried that the lawyer is not permitted to talk to or visit our daughter.”

Ms Nasir had previously been held without trial for six months in 2021, along with more than 20 other students at Birzeit University. During her incarceration, she was reportedly mistreated

Last Thursday, after the killing of seven aid workers in an Israeli attack in Gaza (News, 5 April), Archbishop Welby reiterated his calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, and the unimpeded provision of humanitarian aid.

In a social-media post, he said that he was praying for the “families and colleagues of those who were killed this week, and all those who have been killed in the last six months”.

Aid workers, he said, “can never be a target of war”, and “far too many humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza.”

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Revd Professor Jerry Pillay, also condemned the killings. In a statement on Wednesday, he said: “It is tragic that people who give their time in serving others have to lose their own lives. Such attacks, which take the lives of innocent people, are absolutely unacceptable and cannot be justified at any level.”

Professor Pillay and Archbishop Welby discussed the war in Gaza during meetings in London at the start of this week. According to a statement from the WCC, meetings were held with representatives of the Anglican Communion, in which the potential for deeper collaboration between the two bodies was discussed.

In the aftermath of the attack, there was renewed scrutiny of the UK Government’s approach to arms sales.

On Wednesday of last week, three former Supreme Court Justices joined a group of more than 600 lawyers calling for a suspension of arms deals between British firms and Israel, on the basis of “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, they write that “serious action” is needed to “avoid UK complicity in grave breaches of international law”. Lord Sumption and Lady Hale are among the retired senior judges to have signed the letter.

Last month, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, presented a report in which she wrote: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide against Palestinians as a group in Gaza has been met.”

Israeli officials dismissed the report (News, 27 March).

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