On the conflict in Gaza and Israel

On Tuesday, an airstrike at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City reportedly killed hundreds of patients, healthcare workers and civilians seeking shelter. The hospital is operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, released a statement today on the “atrocious attack” for which each side in the conflict is blaming the other.

This atrocity violates the sanctity and dignity of human life. 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.

The evil and heinous terror attacks by Hamas on people in Israel were crimes against God and humanity. Israel has a legitimate right and duty to defend itself, and to pursue a proportionate and discriminate response to establish its security. The rules of war are there to safeguard civilians and the value of every human life. They must be upheld to the highest degree possible amidst the chaos of conflict, otherwise the cycle of violence will continue for generations to come.

Israel’s bombing campaign on the heavily populated Gaza Strip is causing massive civilian casualties and suffering. The people of Gaza are running out of water, food, medical supplies and places of refuge. Families in Israel and around the world still wait for news of their loved ones. 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.

Welby called for hostages to be released, civilians protected and a corridor for humanitarian aid to be opened in Gaza. (Read more.)

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry released a statement yesterday, calling the church to prayer for “for the birthplace of the Abrahamic faiths and for all its people.”

Pray this week for President Biden, that he may be an advocate for immediate humanitarian access for those who desperately need food, water, and medicine—and for comfort and consolation for those who have been displaced and those who are grieving loved ones.

Bishop Knisely offers this prayer for use in our diocese:

Holy One, we are in anguish witnessing the violence and suffering happening in the Holy Land. The scenes and the accounts are heart wrenching. Today we implore you to soften, to heal, the hearts of those consumed with anger and revenge. We pray for a cease-fire, we pray a for humanitarian response, and we pray for the diplomats working night and day to make both happen. We pray for our friends, and we pray for our enemies. We pray in the hope that by your grace, a new path might be possible. We pray this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is asking Episcopalians to urge their members of Congress to:

  1. Publicly call for a ceasefire, de-escalation, and restraint by all sides.
  2. Call on all parties to abide by the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions and customary international law.
  3. Prioritize steps to secure the immediate release of hostages and ensure international protection for civilians

Take action via the Office of Government Relations website.

In a statement yesterday, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem condemned the “brutal attack on the hospital. “As we grieve the loss of countless souls who perished on our premises, we declare a day of mourning in all our churches and institutions. We beseech our friends, partners, and individuals of goodwill to stand in solidarity, mourning with us the heinous assault on our dedicated staff and vulnerable patients.”

This morning, Archbishop Hosam Naoum gave a press conference regarding the bombing. It is available on Facebook. He disclosed that the hospital received warnings from the Israeli government to evacuate for three days before the strike but said he did not know who was responsible for the attack. (27 minutes)

Church for Middle East Peace, of which the Episcopal Church is a founding member, has released a statement on the bombing.

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem have also released a statement. “We unequivocally declare this atrocity an egregious crime one demanding the severest censure and international accountability,” they wrote, calling on the global community “to embrace its sacred duty to shield civilians and to ensure that such heinous transgressions are never again permitted.”