With the International Red Cross warning of a “full-blown” humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Bible Societies in the Holy Land have appealed to Christians to pray and support those caught up in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“Our hearts are broken as we witness the escalation of hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel,” said Victor Kalisher, director of the Bible Society in Israel, in a joint message issued by the Bible Societies of Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.
“Israelis and Palestinians are at war; we are not. Through our single identity in Christ and his lordship we experience his peace, practice his love, and hold on to him as our hope," he said. “We are committed to serving our communities with the gospel of peace and forgiveness. We will sweat for that which Christ bled for, and labour for that which Christ died for.”
The Bible Society ran a bookshop in Gaza City until 2007 when it was destroyed in a bomb attack. After re-launching its work in the city last year, it now focuses on building relationships with key leaders as a way of demonstrating the Bible’s message of hope.
Bible Societies in the region are now working to bring humanitarian aid to people in Gaza and comfort those in need of hope by sharing the Bible’s message through a new scriptural initiative.
Labib Madanat, development director at United Bible Societies, commented, “As a result of ten years’ work building relationships and trust with both Hamas and Israeli political leaders, Bible Society has access to people in need.”
Ian McKay, the Bible Society’s International Director, added, “We are committed to bringing the Bible’s life changing message to the region. With love, care and compassion staff in Gaza and Israel are living out the Bible’s message of hope.”
The Bible Societies are asking Christians to pray for a “speedy end” to the war and respect for the sanctity of human life, as well as for Bible Society staff in the Holy Land as they continue to reach out to communities with the Word and practical aid.
In the United Kingdom, the Christian Muslim Forum and Council of Christians and Jews are among those calling for an immediate ceasefire after nearly two weeks of conflict. Their calls have been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who said that violence would “have no lasting effect except to reinforce the misery and insecurity of everyone in the region.”
Biblelands said its partner in Gaza City, the St. John Eye Center, had reported that although aid was trickling through, a “huge logistical problem” remained in distributing it to Palestine’s 1.5 million residents.
The center’s nursing coordinator said that the children sharing his apartment block were “terrified, crying and screaming” during the prolonged attacks, echoing concerns raised by World Vision and Open Doors USA over high levels of trauma experienced by children in the region.
Jacky Jaidy, matron of St. John Eye Center, said, “Unfortunately it seems inevitable that another generation of traumatized children are in the making in Gaza.”
Earlier in the week, Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather called for an immediate halt to the violence and for refugees to have full access to humanitarian aid.
“The Epiphany story highlights the human cost of violence, and Christians retelling this story in churches this week should be reminded of the significance of the places in the story to real families today,” she said.
“The journey the Holy family made at Epiphany would not be possible this week because the boarders at Erez and Rafah are closed. I hope that Christians will give active support, as well as prayer, to those families today who are desperate for humanitarian aid, and desperate to escape from misery and violence in the Holy Land.”
On Saturday, the Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev. Patrick Kelly will lead a delegation of European and North American bishops on a weeklong peace mission to the Holy Land. The visit includes meetings with Christians in Bethlehem and Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Archbishop Kelly called for “wise and courageous leadership” to secure peace for future generations.