Fighting continues in the Middle East

July 17, 2006

As the crisis in the Middle East escalates, One Great Hour of Sharing is supporting the relief work of our Global Mission partners. Initial grants totaling $75,000 have been rushed to partners

The fighting between Israel and Palestine that began on Wednesday, July 12, continues to worsen. There has been damage and loss of life on both sides.

The Rev. John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ wrote a thoughtful, pastoral letter to Palestinian friends and partners:

A Pastoral Letter to Palestinian Friends and Partners
from the Rev. John H. Thomas General Minister and President United Church of Christ (USA)

July, 2006

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

As I write this letter, dear friends, the military and humanitarian crisis intensifies around you. We watch with horror and outrage as Israel punishes an entire population for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in Gaza, and as belligerence escalates with Hizb Allah?s attack on military personnel near Lebanon. While we pray for the Israeli soldiers? release and safe return to family, we also know that these incidents have become an occasion for the further oppression of the Palestinian community, for the massive destruction of economic infrastructure and for the tragic loss of much innocent life. Meanwhile, the separation barrier continues to restrict travel, even for the purpose of meeting desperate human need, and sanctions against the Palestinian Authority have caused a financial strangulation of vital political, educational and humanitarian institutions. The complicity of our own government in these sanctions is cause for particular grief.

Making this situation even more burdensome is the recognition that there are many in the United States, including many Christians, who see only Israel?s need for security, who focus only on a few terrorist acts which you yourselves condemn. In doing so, they largely ignore the systemic oppression of an entire people in what increasingly amounts to a virtual prison in which almost every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled by Israel. Many in our own churches are subject to intense lobbying by Jewish groups demonizing the Palestinian community in general, and many of you in particular. Even some of our denominational gatherings of ecumenical partners here in the United States sound what may seem to you to be an uncertain voice.

In the face of such suffering and the temptation for despair, I write to assure you of the prayers and solidarity of the United Church of Christ. I am grateful that this is being signified personally by Peter Makari?s presence in the region this summer, accompanied by several of my colleagues. Know that we continue to be guided by our commitment to peace with justice, to negotiations leading toward a future in which Israel and Palestine mutually co-exist within secure and internationally recognized borders, to a shared Jerusalem, and to full protection and access to holy sites. In addition, we remain steadfast in our denunciation of Israel?s separation barrier, articulated in last summer?s General Synod resolution, and in our readiness to use our church?s economic resources, including the possibility of divestment, to press for an end to the Occupation and to support peacemaking and the Palestinian community. Finally, we will not remain silent in the face of our own government?s policies which continue to reward Israel while failing to press in significant ways for the "road map? it has proposed.

Centuries ago, in the midst of equally urgent times, our Reformed forebears asked, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?? They answered, "that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, not to ourselves but to our faithful savior Jesus Christ.? May this comfort sustain you, and may the knowledge that we belong together in bonds of mutual affection and shared commitment be encouraging in these desperately challenging days.

In Christ,

John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ (USA)

As the United States and France make plans to evacuate their citizens from the tense and escalating situation, the United Church of Christ stands ready to assist partners in the region should it become needed.

On Sunday, July 16, warplanes again bombed Beirut?s southern suburbs with the heaviest airstrikes yet in the 4-day old conflict.

Visit the Church World Service website to find out other ways to help.

How you can help

1. Please pray for the people of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine and all those impacted by this conflict.

2. To help those affected by this disaster you may send gifts payable to your congregation marked "Middle East Crisis", with the request they are sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.

OR

3. Send gifts payable to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Middle East Crisis", to Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

OR

4. Make a secure on-line donation.

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