Join Church Leaders in Urging Intensified Action on the Gaza Crisis
March 5 , 2008
As the Gaza crisis escalated and Secretary Rice began her visit to the Middle East, the heads of churches and agencies which are members of the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) sent a letter last week, asking her to "work with the international community to achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade, and establish real security at Gaza’s borders." The letter expresses concern for all civilians caught in the conflict and raises particular distress about the situation of Gaza’s small Christian community. It concludes by urging Sec. Rice to take action that can "enable substantive progress forward on peace negotiations". The letter was faxed to key contacts at the State Department, White House and foreign embassies. The press release, full text and list of signers can be viewed here
This letter from church leaders is a follow-up to a January 23rd letter signed by CMEP's Director and Chair of the Board sent the day of the breach of the Gaza-Egypt border wall. Since that time, the economic closure of Gaza has continued with increasing humanitarian hardship and the violence has further escalated, with a flurry this week of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and Israeli military responses that have caused grave human consequences on both sides. The risk of even greater military conflict now looms. Secretary Rice must use her trip to address the Gaza crisis and restore hope that real progress can be made toward a peace agreement in 2008.
For an update on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank, you can listen to CMEP’s Feb 27th conference call with Andrew Whitley from UNRWA by clicking here
What’s At Stake
ELCA Policy and Background on Seeking Israeli-Palestinian Peace
This alert follows an alert sent in late January on the same theme.
The ELCA has consistently supported an end to all acts of violence by all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It has also supported all efforts to reinvigorate the peace process (direct negotiations), including the Road Map for Peace, that would lead to a final status agreement that brings about a viable, contiguous, independent Palestinian state and a secure Israel at peace with its Arab neighbors.
On February 26, in a briefing to the UN Security Council, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Robert H. Serry, called the current situation in Gaza, "unacceptable and also unsustainable in humanitarian, human rights, security and political terms."
He criticized Hamas saying that "Despite statements of intent, Hamas has not acted with sufficient determination to bring about an end to rocket attacks by militant groups [into Israel]. Hamas itself also carries out periodic rocket firing and regular mortar fire, to say nothing of the recent suicide bombing [in Dimona]?. We continue to call on Hamas to live up to the responsibilities it has taken on itself and to choose the olive branch over the gun."
He also criticized Israel saying that their "measures [Israel Defense Force incursions and the isolation of Gaza] amounting to collective punishment are also not acceptable. We call on Israel to meet its obligations towards the civilian population of Gaza under international law."
Serry noted further that envoys of the Quartet agree among other things, that they "should now work towards resumption of normal economic life for the people of Gaza, pursue arrangements that ensure the security of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians, and support the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Rocket fire and suicide attacks should cease, as should all acts of violence, so that an atmosphere of calm is created. The humanitarian needs of the civilian population must be met, including the uninterrupted provision of essential goods and services, including fuel and power supplies."
Send a message to Secretary Rice: End Gaza Crisis Now and Restore Hope for Peace Email Web Form
- As an American Christian, I am greatly concerned about the escalating Gaza crisis. I join with the leaders of U.S. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant church organizations in asking Secretary Rice to use her Mideast trip to help achieve a ceasefire, end the blockade and establish real security at Gaza’s borders.
- The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis felt by all Gazans while rocket attacks on Israel have targeted civilians indiscriminately and made normal life impossible in the areas affected.
- The continuing violence and suffering experienced by both peoples hinder progress on the peace process and also create conditions that pose a particular threat to the small Christian community in Gaza.
- Secretary Rice’s urgent and intensified diplomatic effort is needed now to prevent a greater military confrontation and to ensure that real progress can be made on peace negotiations.
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