Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury on Gaza

Posted Jul 30, 2014

[Lambeth Palace press release] Following a recent update from staff at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken publicly (after many private contacts) of his concern for the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

Archbishop Justin Welby said today:

“You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grandchildren, from ever worse violence.”

“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem’s emergency appeal.

“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.

“For all sides to persist with their current strategy, be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating. The bombing of civilian areas, and their use to shelter rocket launches, are both breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war. Further political impasse, acts of terror, economic blockades or sanctions and clashes over land and settlements, all increase the alienation of those affected. Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent. 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 the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace.

“While it is acceptable to question and even disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, the spike in violence and abuse against Jewish communities here in the UK is simply unacceptable. We must not allow such hostility to disrupt the good relations we cherish among people of all faiths. Rather we must look at ways at working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace.”

Echoing the prayer of Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin concluded by saying, “Let us pray to the Prince of Peace who so suffered in a land of violence that hearts may turn to peace and the innocent be helped.”

During recent weeks Archbishop Justin has expressed his concern about the violence in Gaza. He fully accepts that Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state and to self-defence within humanitarian law when faced with an external threat. At the same time he shares the despair, and acknowledges the growing anger felt by many, including Jewish people to whom he has spoken, at the recent escalation of violence by all involved. All this highlights the need for underlying issues to be addressed, whether the ongoing terror threat to Israel or the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The failure to find constructive paths to peace poses a threat to the future of all the peoples of the region.


Read the statement on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website:

Further information about the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s emergency appeal:


Comments (12)

  1. John D. Andrews says:

    Netanyahu recently stated that Israel will never leave Palestine. First, Israel is occupying a sovereign nation as recognized by the United Nations. Short of withdrawal, which is preferable, Israel must stop ignoring international law as it relates to occupation. Under international law, occupying forces have a duty to protect the citizens of the occupied country. Israel clearly is not protecting the citizens of Gaza. Israel must also allow the free movement of goods and people. Such traffic could be monitored by the U.N. in order to allay any fears Israel may have about arms being brought into Gaza. I believe if Israel would agree to any or all of these, violence being perpetrated by Hamas would cease.

    1. Thomas Bias says:

      I quite agree with you, John. I have read Hamas’s proposal for a ten-year truce, and it is actually quite reasonable. If Israel really wanted peace they could negotiate with Hamas on the basis of its 10-year truce proposal, and if they did, I am sure that the fighting could stop. However, based on what I have seen, I don’t believe that Israel wants peace.

    2. Jean Louis LeCoqc says:

      Could we please stop rewriting history? Israel was attacked in 1967 and in 1973, by overwhelming Arab forces if I might add.. I take it you would prefer that they retreat to the pre-attack borders. They have tried the land for peace thing already. Also, did I blink because I don’t remember the United Nations declaring Palestine a sovereign state. And please, please, please stop inferring that the Palestinians are complete innocents in this conflict. There are rockets going in both directions. Finally, I kinda recall that Hamas was the group that said that they would not stop until Israel no longer exists.

  2. Thomas Hofer says:

    Congratulations to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I fully support all peace efforts being made.

  3. Joyce Onstad says:

    It is amazing how much energy is expended on the symptoms of this conflict while the cause of it is clear but ignored….Occupation of Palestine and continued annexation of land. If we focus on the cause, there is a chance of finding a lasting peace. We need courageous leadership from without and within the region and especially from The United Nations.

  4. Jack &Sue Smock says:

    “NEVER AGAIN” means ‘NEVER AGAIN FOR ALL HUMANITY!!!” View The Rev. Canon Garth Hewitt’s “Palestinians Are Humans, Too”.

  5. Charles Robideau says:

    The statements by Bishop Katharine and Archbishop Justin are basically boilerplate, the same mantra that both sides must agree to cease fighting and killing noncombatants, and that our main action must be to pray for such a resolution. The plain fact is — as everyone must recognize who pays any attention to these events — that the cause of this violence is Israel’s determination to have the Holy Land to itself, with Arabs and other non-Jews either ejected or suppressed. This has been clear even before 1948. Our churches, committed to interfaith harmony, ignore that Israel’s revanchism flies in the face of everything Jesus taught and exemplified in his ministry. Israel’s denigration and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians makes a mockery of the ancient Biblical history we celebrate every Sunday. Our churches, especially our Episcopal church, must acknowledge how our faith is being trivialized by our timid response to the atrocities not just in Gaza but in all of the occupied Palestinian territory. The two-state solution, which our church still supports, is a dead hope, killed by Israel’s deliberate destruction of Palestinian land and society. Moreover, if a two-state solution should come to pass, the Israeli state would be a monstrosity, xenophobic, fearful and militarized. With such a neighbor, violence would be inevitable, no matter how much we prayed. As Biblical brothers and sisters of the Israeli people, it’s our duty to call them back from this course. Unfortunately our U.S. government is lost in complicity with our alleged “ally.” It’s up to the churches to be the country’s conscience and call our leaders to account. When the current fighting ends, as it surely must one day, the question will be, how can Gaza recover from its state of utter destruction? The traumatized Gazans can’t do it on their own, and Israel is unlikely to help. Other countries are bogged in their own fights. The only alternative I see is a massive air and sea peaceful invasion by the United States, with ships and planes bringing food, medicines, construction equipment and supplies — whatever is needed, on an emergency basis. Having served for 65 years as Israel’s chief supporter, it’s the least we can do, for both Palestinians and Israelis.

    1. Thomas Bias says:

      Well said, Charles. I could not have said it better myself.

  6. Michael Grear says:

    Yes, we can all agree peace is the objective. But is it the objective of both sides? I can see Israel wanting peace, but how can Israel have peace when Hamas’ stated goal is the destruction of Israel?Few remember when Israel pulled out of Gaza as the “occupier” several years ago, the people living there swiftly voted in Hamas as their leaders…an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Yes, it is tragic to see innocent lives being lost…mostly Palestinian…but they chose Hamas over cooperation with Israel. They wanted to keep fighting…and they are reaping the tragedy of their actions. Arabs started the 1948, 1967, 1973 wars, the Intifada, and now this round of bloodshed.
    When their innocents die, Palestinians scream “Injustice!” while continuing to plot the destruction of others. As Christians, we can only pray for peace from God. Nothing Mankind does will reverse and stop this cycle of death and destruction. Only God will can stop it.

  7. Zulfikar Sayeed says:

    The Archbishops statement gives the impression he is also ‘sitting on the fence’ as many world leaders are currently doing. It takes a brave world leader to address the EXACT CAUSES of this conflict and make a definitive statement about the David and Goliath struggle that has been going on in this part of the world for DECADES. It is an insult to most peoples’ intelligence to read the old mantra about ‘the rockets’ which are glorified fireworks being compared to the indiscriminate use of 100’s of TONS of EXPLOSIVES which have obliterated over a 1300 individuals, mostly WOMEN and CHILDREN who have all lived in a confined prison for all their lives. At least they are free now.
    I would like to ask the Rev Welby about how he thinks JESUS CHRIST (Peace be upon him) would have dealt with this and what his advice to ISRAEL would be. Please Rev Welby, with respect, show some real leadership.

  8. Susan Zimmerman says:

    … we really need to review the Land, which has belonged to Israel for centuries…then there are the Temple(s), which any bright Jew will tell you belongs to Jews & (ultimately G-d)…who has taken from Israel…and how patient have they been…even allowing everyone on the Temple mount?


    Michael Greer makes some good points. I cannot understand the E church, seemingly neutral, would side with the Muslims. Hamas exists only to eradicate Israel yet makes no contribution to the world in terms of science, knowledge or research. Palestinians have never demonstrated that they are peaceful. Muslims want the elimination and destruction of Israel. Why give them the victory? I’d rather have Jewish control than a nation who teaches its sons that becoming suicide bomber is an ideal. There is something sick about that.

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