Through Global Ministries, the United Church of Christ has long-established mission relationships in the Middle East, and with Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. Of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, a small fraction is Christian. Despite its size, the Christian community there provides important services in Gaza to the general population, including Palestinian refugees, and the UCC has supported those efforts over the years. Our two main partners specifically in Gaza are the local programs of the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees (DSPR, of the Middle East Council of Churches) and Al-Ahli Hospital (a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem). Both of these ministries of the churches receive support through Global Ministries from One Great Hour of Sharing for the development, rehabilitation, training, and health programs they carry out.
These partnership ties with Middle East Christians have informed the perspectives of the United Church of Christ regarding the context of ministry and the political conflict. The UCC is engaged in advocacy on the issue, based on the positions of General Synod, which include:
- Opposition to violence in all its forms which "is fracturing our world, destroying our culture, and takes many forms." General Synod "calls on every local church to act to overcome violence in our world…by being a witness for peace with justice and reconciliation";
- Affirmation of Israel's right to exist within secure and internationally recognized boundaries and the assertion of the right of Palestinians to enjoy sovereignty in an independent, contiguous, and viable state of their own, within secure and recognized boundaries;
- Support for a shared Jerusalem, capital of Israel and the Palestinian state, open to people of all faiths;
- Identification of the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land-illegal under international law-to be a major source of conflict; and calls for the end of construction and expansion of settlements, actions that unilaterally change the facts on the ground and prejudge any negotiated resolution of the conflict;
- A call to the US government to "assure just treatment for the Arab refugees and relief of their suffering";
- Support for a negotiated solution, including urging the US to play a role in such negotiations;
- A call for the use of economic leverage to promote peace in the Middle East-advocacy to reallocate US foreign aid so that the militarization of the Middle East is constrained; positive contributions to groups and partners committed to the non-violent resolution of the conflict; challenging the practices of corporations that gain from the continuation of the conflict; and divesting from those companies that refuse to change their practices of gain from the perpetuation of violence.
In the course of the current crisis in Gaza, a number of our partners have issued reflections and statements that can help us to understand the perspective of our Christian sisters and brothers, living in the midst of war.
- The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center: "Sabeel's Reflection on Gaza: The Narrow Gate of Justice"
- A statement of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
- A statement of the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suhail Diwani
- A reflection of the Executive Director of the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees, Dr. Bernard Sabella
- A statement from the Middle East Council of Churches