UCC members show solidarity for Gaza in multiple events

United Church of Christ members, clergy and staff recently took part in multiple days of action, calling for a ceasefire and demilitarization in Israel and Gaza. 

In Washington, D.C., local UCC members participated in the March on Washington for Gaza, where thousands gathered Jan. 13 at Freedom Plaza to hear from speakers and then march to the White House. Speakers included staff of President Biden’s administration and Congressional staff opposed to their employers’ stance on the conflict. 

“Jesus said, ‘Just as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me,’” said Emily Parker, a member of Cleveland Park UCC in D.C. “With U.S. weapons and other support, the Israeli government has been enacting a horrific and genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza that includes indiscriminate bombing, forced starvation and dehydration, destroying medical and other civilian infrastructure, and creating conditions that lead to disease.  

“I feel a responsibility to do what is within my power to stop this madness, especially when my government and tax dollars are sponsoring this genocide. While Palestinians are not least in the eyes of God, our elected officials treat Palestinian lives as though they are disposable. While I march for the people of Gaza, I am marching just as much for myself; I don’t want these atrocities on my conscience and in my name as an American.” 

‘Without justice, there can be no peace’ 

Others who attended the march also spoke about their sense of obligation — both for themselves and their congregations — to speak up due to their faith. 

“As a Christian and a pastor, I feel a responsibility to share in Jesus’ call to ‘bring good news to the poor,’ ‘proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,’ and ‘set free those who are oppressed,’” said the Rev. Michael Vanacore, pastor of Pilgrim Church UCC in Wheaton, Maryland. “It seems clear to me that the Palestinian population in Gaza is suffering a genocide in which my government is complicit, so attending this protest is one way for me to work for their liberation. My parishioners who attended this protest feel that Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign is claiming the lives of far too many innocent civilians — especially children — and we stand united in pleading for a permanent ceasefire, a release of all remaining 132 Israeli hostages and the thousands of Palestinians being currently held in administrative detention without any formal charge, and a dramatic increase in the level of humanitarian assistance currently being allowed into Gaza.  

“Without justice, there can be no peace,” he added. 

On Jan. 16, another rally was held by Mennonite Action, where the Rev. Chris Davies from the Southern New England Conference spoke. Afterwards, a group of around 130 Mennonites were arrested while protesting in the Canon House Office building. 

“It is important for the UCC to show up here, today, in this moment of historic witness alongside the Mennonites — the Peace church now leading,” Davies said. “Not only because of who we have been, but because of the moment of choosing who we will be, by faith. I come, too, carrying the prayers of Acton Congregational Church in Massachusetts, who sent me with a prayer shawl in support of our work together.”

The Rev. Chris Davies speaks at a Jan. 16 rally held by Mennonite Action. Jessica Quinn photo

Many in solidarity 

Meanwhile, in Chicago and online, the Rainbow Push Coalition hosted a two-day Emergency Summit for Gaza Jan. 12 and 13. Churches for Middle East Peace, of which the UCC is a founding member, was among the coalition that organized the summit.  

UCC members were among those who attended an interfaith vigil Jan. 13 after the March on Washington for Gaza. Jessica Quinn photo

While these series of events were not directly connected, they demonstrate a concerted effort among many in the UCC to call for a ceasefire and advocate for the people of Gaza.  

“Over the past several days, it has been powerful to join with UCC advocates from across the region in solidarity with the people of Gaza, highlighting the dire human toll the conflict has taken and echoing the growing global call for a permanent ceasefire and end to Israeli occupation of Palestine,” said the Rev. Michael Neuroth, director of the UCC’s Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in D.C. “As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, we must move boldly beyond statements and prayers — or as he put it, ‘pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities’ — to take tangible action for justice. We cannot look away from the increasing violence and growing death toll that is now over 24,000 people. We must look for new ways to show up in our communities and increase political pressure to end this conflict.” 

‘We have power’ 

Neuroth was among the many in the nation’s capital who were “praying with their feet,” as he put it. But he also noted that advocacy can’t end there. 

“We also must raise our voice with Congress and President Biden to demand a ceasefire, the return of hostages, increased humanitarian aid and respect for human rights,” he said. “To foster a lasting and just peace, we must address the underlying justice issues at stake in this conflict such as equal rights to life, to security, to dignity, to land and livelihood, and to a shared future free from occupation.” 

Thousands marched from Freedom Plaza to the White House on Jan. 13. Jessica Quinn photo

Others also noted the importance of many different people of faith coming together to demand justice and peace. 

“I attended the March in Washington for Gaza because I believe it’s important to come together as Christians and actively participate in the ceasefire movement, a broad and diverse coalition that includes myriad faiths and backgrounds committed to mutual solidarity and liberation,” Parker said. “Alone, we are weak, but when we come together in love and community, we have power.  I am grateful and heartened to have gathered with UCC siblings to participate together in this historic event.” 

Maic D’Agostino contributed to this report.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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