UCC, Disciples condemn Israeli attacks on Palestinians, oppose evictions of Jerusalem families
The United Church of Christ has joined faith communities around the world in calling on the United States to hold Israel accountable for violations of human rights and international law.
Conflict between Israelis and Palestinians turned deadly on Monday. Rocket launches into Israel and Israeli military strikes on Gaza since May 10 were triggered by escalating tensions in Jerusalem over the anticipated eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the Shaikh Jarrah neighborhood. Twenty-four people, including nine children, have died.
Leaders of Global Ministries, the common overseas ministry of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), offered prayers as they expressed concern about the crisis in Israel/Palestine. In a May 11 statement, the general ministers and presidents of both denominations joined Global Ministries co-executives in urging an end to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
Hostilities have escalated in the last few weeks, with violence at the al Aqsa mosque and in the Shaikh Jarrah neighborhood during the holy month of Ramadan, with Israeli security forces tightening restrictions around the Old City and East Jerusalem.
Contributing to the tension is the pending eviction of several Palestinian families from Shaikh Jarrah. More than 50 people are awaiting a decision from the Israeli Supreme Court that would force them from their homes claimed by Jewish settlers. Global Ministries is one of 190 organizations opposing those evictions in a letter to the International Criminal Court.
UCC Justice and Local Church Ministries also joined Global Ministries and a dozen other churches and Christian agencies in an ecumenical letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the U.S. to take “action to halt the imminent displacement of up to 2,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem.”
“We strongly oppose these evictions, which are a continuation of the decades-long Israeli practice of Palestinian dispossession and displacement, and which must end for there to be any chance of peace with justice,” the Global Ministries statement reads. “We abhor the continued patterns of Israeli police violence against civilians in the streets and places of worship in Jerusalem that we have witnessed far too often in recent months.
“The U.S. — which sends $3.8 billion in aid to Israel each year — must hold Israel accountable for these blatant violations of human rights, a main tenet of the Biden presidency. And we are deeply disturbed by the rapid escalation that has led to Israel’s already deadly and promised intensification of its strikes on Gaza. We call upon the U.S. to do all it can to restrain Israel’s use of force, recognizing that the people of Gaza already live under the constraints of a highly restrictive blockade.”
The World Council of Churches issued a statement on Monday condemning the violence. The WCC acting general secretary, the Rev. Ioan Sauca, called on Israel to respect holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City in the interest of peace and stability.
Partners speak out
Global Ministries’ partners in the region also issued statements:
- The YWCA of Palestine, in its statement, “calls upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its continued violations of human rights in accordance with international laws and the relevant international conventions. Concrete measures must be taken to stop the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem including imposing sanctions and banning trade with Israel.”
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land also spoke out against the increased violence. “This provocation of the Palestinian people by the Israeli army and by settlers, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is completely unacceptable,” said its bishop. “These actions are in violation of the Status Quo agreement, which guarantees the three religions, and two people access to their holy sites during religious celebrations.”
The UCC and Disciples leaders closed their statement with this prayer, quoting the Gospel of Matthew (23:37): “We remember Jesus’ words as he wept over Jerusalem: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’
“We fervently pray for our Palestinian partners and for the people too long suffering under occupation and fear, and that a peace with justice will prevail, and we commit to continue to oppose the injustices that we see.”
Statement, action alert, webinar
The complete statement from UCC and Disciples leaders can be found here.
The UCC has issued an action alert so members and ecumenical partners can reach out to their congressional representatives in a call to stop the evictions.
Learn more about the major social, political, and economic shifts in the countries of the Middle East region and the impact on the Christian church in a May 19 webinar.
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