Churches around the world echoed a singular cry last week calling for a cease-fire to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In the United Kingdom, leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities met and released a statement urging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to expend greater effort in ending the violence that has killed more than 850 Palestinians—including 230-plus children—and 13 Israelis since it began on Dec. 27. In addition, more than 3,300 people have reportedly been injured amid the conflict.
Both Israel and Hamas leaders have ignored a U.N. Security Council mandate to stop fighting, instead continuing the barrage of rocket fire and bombings throughout Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. In explaining the massive discrepancy of fatalities between the two sides, Israel claims Hamas is using civilians as human shields.
“Behind all the horrors of death and destruction in Gaza are human faces and human stories,” said the statement released by British religious leaders. “Behind all the statistics for those killed and wounded, on either side, are human beings, each one a child of God.” Among those also officially calling for cease-fire are the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Church of the Brethren. Several other parachurch ministries are involved in providing immediate aid to families caught amid the crossfire.
“What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening,” reported Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City. “The word love is choking in my throat. … We are living like animals in Gaza. We cry and nobody hears us. I am asking God for mercy and pray that the light of Christianity continues to shine in Gaza.” [christianpost.com, 1/11/09; Catholic News Service, 1/5/09]