Urgent action is required to prevent further mass death of civilians in Gaza. The United Church, many other churches, KAIROS, the World Council of Churches, other ecumenical groups, and Palestinian and Israeli partners are calling for an immediate ceasefire in the battle between Israel and Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas. 2.3 million civilians are trapped in the middle, including over 200 Israelis and international citizens taken captive by Hamas October 7. Full background is available at the link above.
As of 31 October, the Canadian federal government has refused to join the call for a ceasefire. Without a ceasefire, nothing else can change for the better. Why is Canada rejecting its past role as a peacekeeping nation?
How to call for a ceasefire
All United Church people are asked to use this contact form to contact Foreign Affairs minister Mélanie Joly. (Scroll down the page.) While it has wording provided, you can edit any of it to add your own concerns. If you want to email the Prime Minister in addition, you can use this form.
Key points: the Canadian government must call for an immediate ceasefire. In addition: a safe corridor to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza; an end to the misery of the current blockade; the immediate and safe release of all hostages; and adherence to international law, and the upholding the rights to life, freedom and dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis.
You can also endorse and publicly add your ministry’s name to the Ceasefire Now Canadian civil society coalition.
Our voices matter, even in a situation that may feel hopeless
Our global partners are Jewish, Christian, Muslim and secular, and they ask for our help now. Below are some links to connect you with their voices; their work rarely makes headlines, and it challenges many assumptions and stereotypes that we may have about the region. Even if you feel you cannot join the ceasefire call, please take the time to hear from our partners on all sides who have lived with violence for too long. Please also consider donating.
More information about Gaza
Half of the 2.3 million people who live in Gaza are children. Sixteen years of an illegal total blockade, and now a total siege accompanied by massive bombing, have cut off the people from the necessities of life. Most hospitals are on the brink of not being able to offer any medical services, and some have not been spared air attacks. The death and injury tolls are horrendous. Groups around the world remind us that targeting civilians, as both Israel and Hamas have done, is a war crime. So is collective punishment of an entire population.
Israel has directed civilians to evacuate to the south of the tiny area, but Israel is bombing the southern part of Gaza too, including the land crossing shared with Egypt. People simply cannot get out, and aid is not being permitted to enter. A long-time partner of the United Church, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, describes its context and work in Gaza here. Team Leader for Global Partnerships Patti Talbot says that DSPR’s offices in Gaza were bombed and destroyed on October 16. Another global partner overview of the current disastrous situation is offered here.
Our global partners, and our church policies
If you want to better understand United Church overall positions on Israel’s military occupation and control of the Palestinian territories, this formal ecumenical brief to the Canadian government from September 2023 is a good place to start, though its language is formal and legal- often the case for government briefings. Please click here for the document.
As you will see, the brief is fully shared with the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, speaking with one voice. That voice is deeply informed by partners who live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. Whether you agree or not, you are urged to better understand our partners and their positions.
United Church global partners in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
The United Church has particular connections to specific partner groups in the region. Here is the link to the global partner list (PDF). Many people may not know that Palestinian Christians are among the oldest Christian communities in the world. Please read this challenging statement and cry for justice and support from a range of Christian agencies in the Holy Land, addressed to Christians in North America and Europe: A Call for Repentance: An Open Letter from Palestinian Christians to Western Church Leaders and Theologians.