Friday, July 25, 2014

Urgent Gaza Appeal: For Lasting Peace in Israel-Palestine, We Must Address the Root Causes of Violence

As the ground assault in Gaza continues, The Presbyerian Church (U.S.A.) joins ecumenical and interfaith partners calling for an immediate ceasefire to all violence. In his recent statement regarding the violence in Gaza and Israel, PC (USA) Stated Clerk, Grayde Parsons, writes, "We call upon all parties involved to stop the violence and agree to an immediate cease-fire, under which the borders of Gaza can be opened to humanitarian aid and desperately needed medical assistance for the sick and wounded." 

The PC(USA) stands beside both Israelis and Palestinians working for a non-violent solution to end the conflict. We oppose violence in all of its forms. It must be made clear that in Gaza, where 1.8 million people live under complete blockade in a 140-square-mile area, with borders controlled by Israel and Egypt, civilians are often in harm's way from Israeli fire, regardless of the intended target. At the same time, we condemn rockets from Gaza launched indiscriminately into southern Israel. These hostile actions do not contribute to the possibility of peace

While an immediate end to all violence remains a top priority, we are aware that such an action will not bring peace. All aspects of Israeli's illegal military occupation--including the  blockade on Gaza and land confiscation in the West Bank--will need to end, in order for a just and secure future to result. We must recognize that U.S. diplomatic and financial support enable the occupation.  The U.S. provides over $3 billion per year in military aid to Israel. The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) "[expressed] its support for the U.S. government policy of carefully vettting the funds distributed to foreign countries in ways that ensure peaceful development and are consistent with international law, human rights, and U.S. foreign policy, namely:

 a. the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 which prohibits giving assistance to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations;

 b. the U.S. Arms Export Control Act of 1976 which prohibits using U.S. weapons against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and

c. the U.S. foreign policy insofar as it pertains to recommendations for steps toward peace, in this instance, between Israelis and Palestinians."

The peoples of Gaza and Israel urgenty need our support. We offer this prayer for peace in Gaza and Israel, and invite you to use it in worship:

A Prayer for Peace in Gaza:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  (Romans 8.26)

God of all people and all places:

We come before you with sighs too deep for words. Each day brings news of more death and destruction for the people of Gaza and Israel.  We grieve along with the families of the 697 Gazans killed, 170 of them children, and with the families of the 37 Israelis killed. Terror grips your children. Even hospitals and schools have been turned into war zones. We cry out for an end to all violence and for the systems and structures contributing to oppression.

God who makes all things whole:

Hold tight all those who mourn. Be with the mothers and fathers who will never see their child’s face light up with laughter. Be with your children, who are lulled to bed not by the soothing voice of their parents, but by sounds of sirens signaling impending destruction.

God who makes everything new:

Equip us to be instruments of your peace.  We are heartbroken by all of the death and destruction, but with the Psalmists we proclaim, “weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” In the midst of such despair and tragedy you remain with those who suffer. Stir within us your vision for reconciliation and peace. Turn us away from complacency and cynicism and toward righteousness and justice. You call your people to seek justice and to love our enemies. In our words and deeds let us be witnesses to your unending love for all of God's people. 

In the name of the One who reconciles all nations and people to himself, we pray.