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Statement on the Gaza crisis

29 December 2008

29 December 2008

The first word to say to the violence against Gaza is "Stop". Over 300 lives lost, more than 1,000 people wounded, uncounted thousands traumatized, bombardment of one of the most densely populated places on earth - this must stop immediately. Governments in the region and abroad, the Arab League, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations must use their good offices to see that all those who are at risk are protected, on both sides of the border, and must ensure access for emergency and medical aid. The deaths and suffering of the last three days are dreadful and shameful and will achieve nothing but more deaths and suffering.

People around the world are looking for change that brings peace closer in the Middle East. A terrible period of deadlock and deprivation has now erupted into greater violence. Policies that rely on cutting off shipments of food, medicine and fuel for 1.5 million Gazans and on sending rockets across borders at random or "surgically" only confirm how far from the path of peace the current authorities have strayed. To use ground forces would deepen the current disaster. Collective punishment against one's neighbors is illegal and has no place in building peace.

In the countries involved in this conflict, churches and church members are looking to their governments to take up the urgent work of securing a viable future for Palestinians, Israelis and their neighbors. The tired logic of public officials blaming others while denying their own government's responsibilities has led to the loss of many lives. Governments need now to be accountable for peace.

At the beginning of 2008, the World Council of Churches central committee condemned attacks on civilians in and around Gaza, called for all who exercise authority over Gaza including the government of Israel and Hamas to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, and urged member churches to pray and work for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

At the end of 2008, in this season of religious celebrations, it is a tragedy that the same measures are more necessary than ever. Our prayer is that the New Year will bring new courage, new leadership and new commitment to the difficult work of peace in the Middle East.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches