Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) continues to grieve the devastating loss of life in Israel/Palestine. As the numbers of those killed and injured climb, we ask people of faith to remain committed to praying and working toward an immediate end to the violence. Yet, cessation of conflict will not automatically bring justice. Without attention to the core systemic issues of the war and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory, there will be no real peace. At a time when the rush by governments will be for more military responses, CMEP prays for the de-escalation of violence to prevail. We urge an escalation of diplomatic efforts by the United States, through the United Nations, and other regional bodies. Too many people are already grieving the loss of loved ones.
CMEP calls for an immediate end to all violence and calls for restraint from all parties. CMEP is deeply concerned by the prospect of an Israeli protracted military offensive and possible ground invasion into Gaza that could result in considerably more deaths and destruction and a broader regional war. Half of the 2.2 million people of Gaza are children.
CMEP abhors reports from the Israeli government that they have shut off power, water, and fuel to the people of Gaza. These actions constitute collective punishment, and international law designates such actions as illegal and unconscionable. The lack of water, electricity, fuel, and access to medical supplies will have a disastrous impact on millions of civilians in Gaza, especially those who need immediate medical attention. We urge the resumption of power, water, and gas for the people of Gaza. CMEP calls for the protection of access to humanitarian aid and the cessation of conflict so that emergency medical care can be offered.
The call from Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu telling Gazan residents “to leave” is completely unrealistic given that all border crossings in and out of Gaza are closed, and leaving is not an option for the more than two million people living there. CMEP calls on Hamas to do no harm and to release all hostages held in captivity. CMEP continues to hold in prayer the families of those held hostage and the families of all who have been wounded or lost their lives already in the violence of the past few days. CMEP calls on the international community and the United States to stop supporting further militarization and pursue every alternative means to protect all Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
The United States has long failed to serve as a constructive partner in helping to secure a just and lasting peace in Israel/Palestine. During heightened tension, CMEP implores the U.S. government to refrain from steps that only exacerbate the violence and increase the risk of expanding war into the broader region. Core issues of the conflict must be addressed, including but not limited to: ceasing the expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; ending impunity given to settlers when they attack Palestinians, their homes, their lands, and religious sites; reversing de facto annexation of Palestinian land; ending the blockade of Gaza while ensuring the legitimate security needs of Israelis; ensuring freedom of access and movement for Palestinians. These are among numerous other issues that the United States and many in the international community have not held Israel accountable for decades.
While mourning the tragic events happening in Gaza and Israel, CMEP remains committed to prayer and the belief that peace is possible even in these devastating times.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of more than 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Presbyterian Outlook.