‘Just peace, human dignity’: UCC joins calls for ceasefire, prayer vigil for Israel and Palestine
As hostilities and violence continue in Israel and Palestine, the number of Palestinians killed has surpassed 10,000 people, and the number of Israeli deaths is around 1,400. The United Church of Christ continues its response by joining partners to urge for an immediate ceasefire and pray for a just peace.
“An immediate end to the war in Israel/Palestine is imperative,” Peter Makari writes in his article, “Gaza…Again.” Makari serves as the transitional executive for UCC Wider Church Ministries and co-executive for Global Ministries, as well as global relations minister for the Middle East and Europe. The article offers a concise summary of the history of Palestine’s occupation by Israel beginning in 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and dispossessed of their homes, land and property, becoming refugees in the region. There has been significant violence and Israeli military operations in and around Gaza since.
Makari notes that the present war “will not solve any of the underlying issues.”
Gaza, already one of the most densely populated spaces on earth, now contains 1.5 million internally displaced residents with little access to shelter, hospitals and clean water.
‘Addressing the root issues’
“The rights and dignity of Palestinians and Israelis must equally be valued, affirmed and protected,” Makari writes. “As a Just Peace church, we affirm that a durable and just peace will depend on addressing the root issues — rights, dignity, equality, land, access to resources and occupation.”
He emphasized that prayer, advocacy and support are crucial steps that people can take. This includes sending letters and calls to public officials in support of a ceasefire, release of the hostages and humanitarian access. This is something each person can do more than once, Makari said. People can, in fact, continue contacting their representative and senators daily.
“The people trapped in Gaza are in desperate need of safe access to immediate humanitarian aid. Their lives and well-being must be preserved,” he said.
‘A vision of just peace’
The ecumenical community has issued several statements decrying the violence and loss of life of Palestinians and Israelis through Churches for Middle East Peace, of which the UCC is a founding member. The most recent statement, released on Nov. 3, calls for an immediate ceasefire and describes the U.S. government as “contributing to the ongoing dehumanization and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people in Gaza.”
“The United States must end its complicity immediately and show support for the protection of all human life, advocating for a just and durable resolution to this crisis in which all Israelis and Palestinians might realize a vision of a just peace, illuminating human dignity, advancing security and self-determination for all,” the statement says.
‘Grieving incredible loss’
The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC General Minister and President, joined other CMEP leaders and its member communions for a virtual gathering of prayer and fasting on Oct. 27.
The prayer vigil aimed to gather people and offer specific intentions in prayer: for a ceasefire, for an end to violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, for a return of all hostages held by Hamas, for an end to the blockade and bombing campaign on Gaza, for the occupation and human rights abuses in the region to be brought to an end, and for lasting peace between Israelis, Palestinians and all people in the Middle East and the world.
The Rev. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP executive director, introduced the vigil as a response to Pope Francis’s call for a day of prayer and fasting.
“We hope that this vigil will calm our hearts as so many are grieving incredible loss,” she said.
“This is a very challenging time globally,” Thompson reflected during the vigil. “And as we remember and watch what is going on in Gaza, we also remember that there is still war in the Ukraine, that there is still civil unrest in so many other places around the world, and this is one more place where there’s the potential for others to join in and for things to escalate … As people of faith, it is important for us to exercise that faith in prayer, believing that God hears and that God answers our prayers.”
Thompson joined many others in lifting prayer for all those touched by the violence and harm.
“We pray, O God, for Palestinians and Israelis alike who are in harm’s way,” Thompson said. “We pray, O God, for parents who are having to fend for their children without electricity, without water and with minimum options for safe passage. We pray, O God, for the leaders of the world who sometimes feel far removed from the despair of the people. We pray that your hand will touch, that your spirit will guide as discernment reaches the hearts of those you have made in your image.
“O God, help us to love and not to hate.”
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Minister and President, the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, also offered words of prayer.
“We pray for resources that would begin to address the trauma faced by so many children, so many teenagers, so many families, parents, grandparents,” she said. “God, help their hearts even now begin to heal from the horrors that they’ve seen and witnessed. Heal bodies who may be going without medical care in this moment. May your mercy be full in us. May your love be full in us, O God, so that the actions that we take will enable us to truly be the church that we say we are in this moment.”
CMEP holds ongoing weekly virtual gatherings for prayer and lament on Wednesday afternoons.
A Global Ministries web page highlights the statements issued by organizations of which the UCC is a member, action alerts for advocacy and an urgent appeal to offer humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
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