Churches reiterate call for ceasefire in Gaza

Published January 9, 2009

One of three mobile clinics supported by DanChurchAid, a member of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, which were destroyed by an Israeli air strike Jan. 5.

Churches in Canada and abroad have reiterated their call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, where hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands wounded since the conflict erupted Dec. 27.

The national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Susan Johnson, who is part of a delegation currently traveling in the Middle East, urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider the government’s position that solely blamed the militant Palestinian group Hamas for the spiraling violence.

In a letter sent to Mr. Harper Jan. 5, Bishop Johnson said there is “no justifiable defense” for Israel’s incursion into Gaza with such large casualties.”

Bishop Johnson said she has been hearing first-hand accounts of suffering from the people of Gaza, noting that there have been more civilian casualties, most of them “defenseless women and children.” She said “placing sole blame for the magnitude of the current crisis on these clearly indefensible rocket attacks functionally absolves the government of Israel from the responsibility for the extreme civilian casualties that are being incurred.”

The Canadian government has stated that Hamas provoked the attack and is responsible “for the continuing deepening humanitarian tragedy.” Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff also expressed support for Israel’s military action, stating that it had the right to defend itself.

The ELCIC’s Global Hunger and Development Appeal, the Canadian Lutheran World Relief and their regional partners have issued a joint appeal to support immediate relief efforts in the Gaza strip. The ELCIC is working with Action by Churches Together (ACT) International in providing food, medical supplies and psychosocial counseling to victims caught in the conflict.

Food is in critical supply; mobile clinics have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes, said ACT.

The Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil S. Dawani, has asked for prayers and financial support, as the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, an institution supported by the diocese, struggles to provide critical health care in the area. “Every day since the beginning of military operations, the hospital has received 20-40 injured or wounded patients. A large proportion of them require hospitalization and surgery. These patients are in addition to those with non-conflict-related illnesses. About one-fourth of the patients are children,” he said in a statement. “In addition, the conflict has brought a new type of medical and surgical conditions. For example, patients with burns and acute, crippling psychological trauma are being seen more frequently. Because it is not possible for aid workers to enter Gaza at this time, the hospital’s staff is working around the clock, struggling with the effects of exhaustion and against limited resources in a conflicted area of ongoing military operations.”

Kairos, a coalition of Canadian churches (including the Anglican Church of Canada) dedicated to promoting justice, human rights and peace, said international pressure from countries like Canada is crucial in ending the Israeli military action.

“We need the Canadian government to provide a different perspective. In the words of a statement by Israeli women’s organizations, ‘we demand an end to the bombing and other tools of death, and call for the immediate deliberations to talk peace and not make war,” Kairos said in a statement. “The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence a strategy, nor killing an alternative…”

Kairos urged Canadians to send a letter to Mr. Haper and to their local Member of Parliament calling for an “immediate, unconditional ceasefire” that will stop all military attacks by both sides.

Meanwhile, Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, urged Christians around the world to pray for peace “and wherever possible, to inspire and encourage their leaders in the constructive work that leads beyond enmity to reconciliation.” He reiterated the call for “an end to hostilities and a new commitment to a negotiated settlement that will assure a just and lasting peace to both Palestinians and Israelis.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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