On prayer and action – how can the church respond to Gaza?

The Moderator of the United Church shared a message on November 21 about the bombing in Gaza and rockets in Israel as he invited the church to pray. Here is an excerpt:

“No words seem adequate to address the injustice of a situation where so many people are suffering on all sides of this conflict. And so I encourage you to join with me as I turn to prayer, in the hope that the power and grace of this response carries with it the hoped-for outcome of peace and justice for the people of Israel and Palestine. And may the recently negotiated ceasefire hold fast and bring calm to a region longing for stability.” (Source: http://united-church.ca/communications/news/moderator/121121)

It has been troubling  to witness the ripple effects of this recent situation in Gaza. I met a small boy in the street in Jayyous one night who was scared and couldn’t sleep because of the sound of fighter jets flying overhead. I sat with neighbours, glued to their TV sets late in the night, as images of one, two, three, four more children’s bodies were pulled out from the rubble of another bombed apartment in Gaza. I worried about my teammates in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv as rockets were reported to be launched there. I worried about the people we met in Sderot in southern Israel. I worried about my own safety as I stepped off a bus on my way home just as Israeli soldiers were opening fire to scare off civilian demonstrators in our neighbouring town. The presence of the Israeli military in the area has increased and made tensions worse. And I am aware that this is a fraction of the horror of this situation that I find myself on the margins of.

“Prayers and sacrifice must be used as the most effective spiritual weapons in the war against war, and like all weapons they must be used with deliberate aim: not just with a vague aspiration for peace and security, but against violence and against war.”  ~Thomas Merton (from New Seeds of Contemplation)

Pray and act for peace (Photo: N.Maxson)

At the Catholic church  we attended in Nablus last week, the sermon was on the gospel reading from Matthew 24:

“Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

The priest gave the following reflection: “If the sun is darkened, like during these days of violence around Gaza, then WE need to have light in our hearts and bring this light and love to everyone around us!”

Altar at the Catholic Church in Nablus – prayers for peace

I pray ceaselessly. One resource I find very valuable is the Sabeel Weekly Wave of Prayer (http://www.sabeel.org). It is a wonderful spiritual practice to pray with other Christians for peace and to keep updated what is going on. I read different media sources. I wrote to the Canadian Prime Minister and several members of parliament about the situation. I write and try to process what is going on here for the sake of the long-term advocacy work that is needed for justice. I talk to people: neighbours, teammates, friends, family.

Here is the response I posted on the Moderator’s blog today. I believe that we, as the church, are able to speak out and take action.  

Prayer and action are needed in these times. While a ceasefire has been brokered, it is only a temporary solution to a systemic problem. There will be no peace in the Middle East or security for Israel without justice for Palestinians. As Overseas personnel of the United Church currently serving in the West Bank, I have witnessed a rise in tension and clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians because of the situation in Gaza which is jeopardizing the safety of civilians of all ages here. We should pray for all victims, acknowledge the ripple effect of this violence and take action for a lasting and just peace in the region.

As members of the World Council of Churches, I direct our attention to the Council’s message on November 16 as a reiteration of a call for,

“…the end of the six-year blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel. A fast facts sheet report issued in June 2012 by the UN OCHA in the occupied Palestinian territories reminded us of the dramatic unbearable humanitarian situation of the population in the Gaza Strip. As Israel continues to control Gaza by air, land and sea, the international humanitarian law holds its Government responsible and accountable for the safety of all civilians in Gaza and Israel.” (Source:http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/statements/concern-on-escalation-of-violence-in-gaza-and-israel.html )

International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights law should form the basis of our prayerful response as we talk to our own government and pressure the Israeli government to shift its policy towards Gaza.

We may not know what to do or what to say in these times but it is of utmost importance to listen to our brothers and sisters, partners, churches and groups working for peace and justice on the ground. Many positive statements calling for dialogue and action have come from Israeli groups including, “The Other Voice” a group of Israelis in Sderot (a town affected by the rockets) committed to dialogue with Palestinians in Gaza also striving for peace in their region. (Source: http://www.othervoice.org/welcome-eng.htm)

The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine also appeal for action and an end to the blockade:

“We appeal to all peace loving people across the world to work with their governments and fellow citizens to stop the destruction and the carnage that is going on in Gaza. The current distressing situation in the Gaza Strip is the result of the impasse in the political process and the absence of peace. We strongly believe that the cause of all this is the continuing Israeli occupation and the blockade and restrictions imposed by the Israel authorities on the Gaza Strip and its 1.6 population.”

We can take guidance from our own UNJPPI network in our action for peace and justice: http://www.unjppi.org/2/post/2012/11/call-to-end-the-violence-in-gaza.html

May it be so!

I work for the United Church of Canada as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me or the EAPPI Communications Officer (communications@eappi.org) for permission. Thank you.

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2 Comments

Filed under Israel/Palestine

2 responses to “On prayer and action – how can the church respond to Gaza?

  1. dwaringca

    thanks, Natalie! hope you are feeling better too…

      “In the best of struggles, our lives must be lived.” Carolyn McDade

    >________________________________ > From: an ecumenical accompanier’s reflections on solidarity in Israel/Palestine >To: dwaringca@yahoo.ca >Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2012 3:30:05 PM >Subject: [New post] On prayer and action – how can the church respond to Gaza? > > > WordPress.com >nataliemax posted: “The Moderator of the United Church shared a message on November 21 about the bombing in Gaza and rockets in Israel as he invited the church to pray. Here is an excerpt: “No words seem adequate to address the injustice of a situation where so many people ” >

  2. Katy Cox

    At Oasis United this morning are thoughts and prayers were with you. You were our “Moment for Mission”-and dawn was mentioned as well. Gary’s prayer was also used.
    Katy

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