It is with a sense of outrage and shock, that we received news of the missile attack on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians who had lost their homes already were taking refuge at the hospital, run by the Anglican Church. The attack is a war crime under International Law. The international community must hold those responsible accountable for the crimes committed against civilians. The attack stands also contrary to everything our monotheistic values demand from us; namely to stand up for justice, make peace, and protect the human dignity of all those created by God and in His image. The attack makes no sense, since it was directed against a hospital, church property, patients, and families who were seeking refuge from the relentless bombardment upon them.
The attack came on the same day when church leaders in Jerusalem organized a day of prayer for peace in Gaza. The faithful throughout the world had joined in prayer; yet an attack on a church-owned hospital occurred, resulting in the killing of hundreds of persons as per initial reports, and the injury of hundreds if not even thousands.
As president of the United States Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Israel, we call upon him to address the situation in Israel and Palestine, condemn this heinous attack against the hospital, open the corridor for humanitarian support and call for a ceasefire and dialogue for just peace in this troubled context.
The Middle East has seen plenty of violence and bloodshed, and the time has come to call for a new approach to peace based on justice. Violence leads to more violence, and bloodshed leads to more bloodshed. Let the tragic events in Gaza serve as impetus for a new reality where Palestinians and Israelis enjoy peace, dignity, and security.
At this moment of pain, we pray that those killed at the Al-Ahli Hospital, and all those who lost their lives in this conflict, may rest in peace. We send our condolences to the bereaved families, and best wishes for a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
The tragic events remind us of the dire need for peace. We draw hope from the word of the Gospel:
“Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
We remind political powers throughout the world that peace should be our goal, but in order to achieve peace we must remove the reasons for animosity through dialogue.
Geneva 17 October 2023, revised 20 October 2023
Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay
World Council of Churches