“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-2a, NRSVUE)
The world has been inundated with disturbing news of rising death tolls from airstrikes and bombings in Gaza. Though the situation is complex, the war between Palestine and Israel speaks of decades-long occupation and the Palestinian people’s resistance to it. The modern state of Israel was created through agreements of countries like the United Kingdom and the United States with the support of the United Nations in what Palestinians call the Nakba (meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic), the mass displacement and dispossession of the homes of Palestinians in 1948.
Since the beginning of October 2023, the death toll from Gaza has risen to 16,314, of which 6,911 are children and 3,640 are women. Included in these deaths are an approximated 7,000 whose bodies remain trapped under the rubble. At least 3,100 people have been injured1. The Hamas assault on Oct. 7, 2023 felled 1,405 Israelis. Some 54 journalists have died amid the conflict2.
Every death is lamentable. Each of these deaths bring sorrow. We are saddened by this ongoing war, where lives are extinguished daily. The image of God is in all of us. We must defend and uphold the sanctity of life.
Since the Gaza Strip has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 47% of the population under 18 years old, we particularly grieve for the loss of a generation and the shattered dreams of the youth. We mourn with mothers, who long to shield their children from such violence and trauma. Women, newborns, and children disproportionately bear the brunt of the war, hostilities and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian Territories as access to basic needs and water continues to dwindle and hospitals remain under fire3.
A comprehensive solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel is urgently needed, recognizing that access to armaments and surveillance technologies is clearly lopsided in favor of the latter. This requires a commitment to upholding human rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The delegates of the NCCP 26th General Convention stand for peace based on justice, which requires addressing systemic violence and oppression. As we grapple with the deluge of disturbing reports from Gaza, we encourage all peoples of faith to acknowledge the suffering of victims of war and the undeniable history of violence between the people of Palestine and Israel.
We urge for International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention to be upheld by all parties. We call for an immediate de-escalation of the conflict. Furthermore, the free flow of humanitarian assistance should be mobilized to aid Palestinian children, youth, women and men; they should be allowed to safely return to their homes to restore their communities and lives.
With the current situation in Gaza so egregious as to be described as a genocide by human rights watchdogs, the churches are obligated to band together to protect the rights of civilians, including the right to life, the right to resist occupation and the right to self-determination. Churches must not condone Zionist4 rhetoric among Christians who legitimize as a right of “the chosen people” the illegal occupation of Palestinian properties and other violations of human life and dignity. These outdated and irresponsible claims must be rectified.
We, therefore, call on the faithful to be in solidarity with our siblings in Palestine and Israel, and deepen our understanding of the issue:
1. Prayers: Include prayers for peace and justice in Palestine during church services. Hold special wor-ship services or vigils, dedicated to the victims of the war emphasizing the importance of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Observe the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel.
2. Educational Programs: Organize educational events to raise awareness about the historical and politi-cal context of the conflict. These can include seminars, panel discussions and film screenings to foster a more comprehensive understanding of the issues. This is also to deepen our understanding of the current conflicts and peace issues.
3. Advocacy and Lobbying: Encourage church members to engage in advocacy efforts. This could involve writing letters to political representatives, participating in peaceful protests, and supporting campaigns for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
4. Public Statements: Issue public statements expressing concern for the well-being of civilians caught in the conflict, advocating for a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Share these statements through church websites, social media and local media outlets.
In times of crisis, our churches are called to be beacons of hope, compassion and justice. Let us come together, transcending borders and differences, to amplify our collective voice for the sake of humanity. By standing in solidarity with the people of Palestine, we demonstrate our commitment to the principles of peace and justice that lie at the heart of our faith.
(This statement was approved unanimously by the delegates of the 26th General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines on November 24, 2023).
4 Zionism is a political ideology that began in the 19th-century. It initially called for the creation of a Jewish state, roughly corresponding to the Land of Israel in the Jewish faith tradition.