The leaders of Canada’s Anglican and Lutheran churches have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for Canada to champion humanitarian aid to Gaza following an explosion at an Anglican-run hospital there Oct. 17 which killed as many as 500 people according to Palestinian health authorities.
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), highlighted Al-Ahli Hospital’s history of cancer care and care for traumatized children in the region. They urged Canada to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the region and a humanitarian corridor to bring food, water and medical aid into Gaza. “Canada must use all means at its disposal to advocate for the respect of international law and the protection of human rights as it has done in the past. The time to speak is now!” they wrote in the Oct 18 letter.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) announced the same day they would be sending $30,000 to the hospital, which is funded, owned and operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and is also a PWRDF partner. The money will go towards urgently needed staffing as well as the hospital’s other needs as they arise, says a statement on PWRDF’s website.
Also Oct. 18, Israel’s government announced it would not interfere with food, water or medical aid entering Gaza from Egypt. But it said the nation would not allow aid to pass through its own territory as long as Hamas was holding Israeli hostages.
The Israeli government and the Hamas-led government in Gaza have each blamed their opponents for the explosion at the hospital. Hamas authorities claim the blast was part of the Israeli bombardment, while the Israeli Defence Force say the blast was the result of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) missile that fell off-target.
Several days prior, four people were wounded at the same hospital when an Israeli rocket struck and severely damaged its Diagnostic Cancer Treatment Centre.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also released a statement on the latest explosion. “This atrocity violates the sanctity and dignity of human life,” he wrote. “It is a violation of humanitarian law, which is clear that hospitals, doctors and patients must be protected. For this reason, it’s essential that we exercise restraint in apportioning responsibility before all the facts are clear.”
While Welby affirmed that Israel had the right to defend itself with a “proportionate and discriminate response to establish its security” after Oct. 7’s ground attack by Hamas, he also criticized the extent of the bombing campaign it has pursued in Gaza.
“It is unconscionable that aid is being prevented from reaching children and adults who are not combatants in this war. It is indefensible that hospitals, schools and refugee camps are being struck. It is an outrage that hostages are being held by Hamas. The bloodshed, slaughter and suffering of innocent people on all sides must stop,” he wrote.
Welby concluded by calling again for Hamas to release its hostages, for both sides to protect civilians and for safe access to Gaza for humanitarian aid.
“What we know for certain is that this violence will not secure for the people of the Holy Land the future they deserve,” he wrote.