Primate, Lutheran head seek Gaza ceasefire, decry antisemitism

Canada has exported more than $140 million in military goods to Israel over the last decade, Global Affairs says. Photo: Kletr/Shutterstock
Published May 1, 2024

Bishops also call on Ottawa to end arms transfers to Israel

Leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have called for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to arms transfers to Israel in a series of statements and open letters to Canadian government officials, while also speaking out against a wave of antisemitism they said began with the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

On Feb. 2, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson published an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his government to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and to fully comply with the interim ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which found Israel operating under plausible intent to commit genocide.

In the face of what they called a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza Nicholls and Johnson said, “it is urgent that Canada take every step necessary to ensure the safety, wellbeing and security of Palestinians and Israeli hostages in Gaza; secure an immediate ceasefire; demand the safe and sustained provision of all necessary humanitarian relief; and guarantee the safeguarding of all evidence of the incitement to commit and execution of war crimes, ensuring that all parties responsible are held to account.”

The Anglican Church of Canada, Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and ELCIC were among signatory organizations in a Feb. 5 open letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, urging Canada to immediately stop further arms exports to Israel in light of the ICJ ruling.

The letter said since Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack, nearly 30,000 Palestinians had been killed, including 12,000 children, while Gaza had suffered widespread destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, refugee camps and critical civilian infrastructure. It cited data from Global Affairs Canada that over the last decade, Canada has exported more than $140 million in military goods to Israel. Canadian technology has also been integrated into U.S. weapons systems used in Gaza.

The government of Canada “cannot at the same time signal support for the ICJ, and adherence to its rulings, while continuing to arm those whom the ICJ has ruled are plausibly accused of genocide,” the letter said.

On March 7 the primate, ELCIC national bishop and United Church of Canada Moderator Carmen Lansdowne released an open letter to Trudeau praising his government for reinstating funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Canada suspended funds to UNRWA, a key source of food, medicine and shelter in Gaza, after the ICJ ruling, based on Israeli intelligence claims that UNRWA employees had taken part in the Oct. 7 attacks.

The letter reiterated the call for a ceasefire. It also urged Canada to ask for an independent investigation into the killing of people in Gaza seeking aid from food trucks in late February.

On March 21 Nicholls and Johnson published a joint statement ahead of Holy Week voicing their churches’ pledges to oppose antisemitism in all its forms—commitments already reaffirmed and expanded, they said, at the two churches’ joint Assembly in July 2023.

“At that time, we could not foresee how quickly and brutally antisemitism would rise, beginning with the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli kibbutzim near the Gaza border,” the bishops wrote. “It has since reached into communities around the world, as polarization concerning the response of the state of Israel has incited fear, vandalism and hate speech against Jews.

“We must stand against antisemitism whenever we hear or see it,” Nicholls and Johnson concluded. “We stand in solidarity with Jewish people around the world who desire to live in safety and security without fear, as do all people.”


  • Matthew Puddister

    Matthew Puddister is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He also supports General Synod's corporate communications.

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