“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
-Deuteronomy 16:20, ESV
It has been nearly a month since the outbreak of violence between Palestine and Israel. On October 9, in response to the attack and the taking of prisoners-of-war by Hamas in Israeli territory, the latter retaliated with a relentless bombing campaign resulting in at least 8,525 (3,542 children, 2,187 women, and 29 journalists) Palestinians killed and at least 21,048 injured. The World Health Organization has also documented a number of atrocious attacks on medical facilities in the Gaza Strip that have killed at least 12 health workers who would have attended to injured persons who need immediate medical attention. Meanwhile, a Greek Orthodox church, Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City, has been bombed by an Israeli air strike killing and injuring “a large number” of displaced Palestinians who sought refuge in the church compound. These numbers of deaths and injuries already far exceed the 1,405 Israelis killed and 5,431 injured.
While the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is saddened by the violence that each side has wrought to each other’s people, the war between Israel and Palestine is clearly a lopsided one. Israel’s response to the attack of Hamas, which should be scrutinized for violations of International Humanitarian Law, exacerbates the already deplorable conditions of Palestinians, who have been living under a situation likened to “apartheid” for years already. Israel went as far as cutting off water, electricity, supplies and even humanitarian aid to Gaza.
The ongoing hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas have a very complex historical background. The modern state of Israel was created through what Palestinians call the Nakba (meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic) which refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Israel, with its military superiority and backing from many western countries, has forcibly occupied additional Palestinian territories through the years. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees states that more than 5 million Palestine refugees are scattered throughout the Middle East. Meanwhile, those that are still remaining in Gaza are being subjected to relentless bombing. This complex situation needs a comprehensive solution that addresses the roots of the problem as well as recognizes human rights and the dignity that God bestowed on all humanity.
Right now, what is clearly needed is an immediate stop to the hostilities and the rising death toll. The bombings must cease. Under this urgent reality, we are saddened by the abstention of the Philippines in the UN resolution calling for a humanitarian truce in Gaza.
The NCCP joins the groundswell of voices around the world clamoring for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation of war between Israel and Palestine as well as for immediate humanitarian aid to be provided to the people in the Gaza strip. We appeal for the respect of human rights and adherence to the Geneva Conventions. We pray for an end to the violence and hostility. Our hearts are with families who have lost loved ones and with all those suffering in this war. They remain in our prayers during these most tumultuous times.
Let us all continue to pray and call for just peace in Palestine and Israel.
03 November 2023
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
THE MOST REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
DCN. DR. GAY B. MANODON
MA. KAY CATHRINE F. ALMARIO
MS. MINNIE ANNE M. CALUB
Acting General Secretary