PC(USA) Washington office urges an “immediate ceasefire” in Israel/Palestine

On Oct. 30, the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) issued a statement calling for a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine. "Political leaders declare war, civilians pay the price," it says.

As people of faith, we grieve the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza, and the wider Middle East. We decry the October 7 actions of Hamas brutally murdering more than 1,400 Israelis. We mourn the response of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order an aerial bombing campaign that resulted in the deaths of 5,791 Palestinians, including 2,360 children. The immense suffering has been compounded by the implementation of a siege of Gaza withholding water, fuel, medical supplies, and food.  To date, over 8,000 Palestinians have been killed, with a third of them being children. The loss of life continues to increase with thousands of people being blinded, maimed, and made homeless, who are emotionally and psychologically scarred for a lifetime.

There must be a ceasefire! The US must offer sustainable solutions that promote life, development, hope, and peace. The US has committed military funding, personnel, and weapons by presidential degree, despite the lack of Congressional action. The United States must offer more than military assistance and lean heavily on diplomatic insistence that the weapons of war are silenced and demand peace for civilians who are innocent of the carnage that started this conflict. Congress, in conjunction with President Joe Biden, must call for an immediate ceasefire alongside an increase in the humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza. The world must respond by supplying the necessities of life including food, water, electricity, medical supplies, and fuel. In addition, safe passage must be granted to Palestinian civilians who desire to evacuate as the US must call upon Heads of States in the Middle East to further open borders and provide welcome to those fleeing the war zone.

Since the war first began, voices of compassion and reason spoke for restraint. Pope Francis called for the release of all hostages and an end to the bombing and upcoming invasion. “We say ‘Ceasefire, Ceasefire;. Brothers and sisters, stop! War is always a defeat, always.”   The United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres,  has called for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” He detailed the Palestinians’ “epic suffering” and said that the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” violated international law.

The nature of this war can have no other possible outcome than horrendous death and a legacy of violence that will be passed from one generation to the next. Former President Barack Obama, dually condemned Hamas’ attack as he reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. He also cautioned that the risks to civilians outweighs any other factors and will have a devastating consequence of increasing hatred for Israel. “The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population [in Gaza] threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis – it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long-term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

Presbyterians have always sought guidance from scripture and the Holy Spirit. We affirm that the Word of God issues a sovereign call for the protection of the innocents, usually illustrated by children and the elderly. Peace is never accomplished by violence. Ezekiel declared, “Put away violence and destruction, and practice justice and righteousness.” This is our foundation as people of faith to put away any retaliatory inclinations and instead embrace a humanitarian response even within the confines of war.

Tell Congress today to call for a ceasefire and an immediate halt to military activity until Palestinians find safety. Urge Congress to prioritize protecting people in Palestine and Israel by opening humanitarian coordinators: to provide food, water, electricity, medicine, and safe evacuations. We still believe in a two-state solution and pledge to work until its arrival.

To read the Action Alert in its entirety and to send it to your elected officials, go here.

To learn more about the Office of Public Witness, go here

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.