[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: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5382/statement-from-archbishop-justin-on-gaza
Further information about the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s emergency appeal: http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2014/07/emergency-appeal-made-for-gaza-hospital.aspx