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Evangelical alliances call for a ceasefire in Gaza, condemn civilian deaths

This image taken from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 29, 2023, shows a black cloud of smoke ascending from the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. The Israeli army has raised the number of troops fighting inside the Gaza Strip, a spokesman said on October 29, 2023, as the military stepped up its war on Hamas in the Palestinian territory. Thousands of civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, have died since October 7, 2023, after Hamas terrorists based in the Gaza Strip stormed into southern Israel in an unprecedented attack, torturing and murdering civilians, triggering a war declared by Israel on Hamas with retaliatory bombings on Gaza.
This image taken from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on October 29, 2023, shows a black cloud of smoke ascending from the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. The Israeli army has raised the number of troops fighting inside the Gaza Strip, a spokesman said on October 29, 2023, as the military stepped up its war on Hamas in the Palestinian territory. Thousands of civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, have died since October 7, 2023, after Hamas terrorists based in the Gaza Strip stormed into southern Israel in an unprecedented attack, torturing and murdering civilians, triggering a war declared by Israel on Hamas with retaliatory bombings on Gaza. | FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

As Israeli forces are expected to enter Gaza City to fight Hamas, Evangelical alliances from around the world are calling for a ceasefire, saying the teachings of Jesus call for peace amid times of violence.

In a joint statement released last Wednesday, the organizations acknowledge the complexity and historical depth of the Middle Eastern conflict and the various viewpoints surrounding it, admitting to not fully grasping the region's intricacies.

"We call for de-escalation and the cessation of hostilities between Israel and different Palestinian formations and supporters, including Hamas," the statement reads.

"We condemn the attacks on civilians by Hamas. Hamas' acts of aggression and the largest killing of Jewish civilians on a single day since the Holocaust are deplorable and despicable. We note that Israel in pursuit of Hamas has caused more civilian deaths in Palestine. We condemn these further deaths of Palestinian civilians."

The joint statement asserts that the situation in the Middle East has "resulted in cycles of violence" and that "peace can only be achieved when the cycles of violence are broken and when perpetrators and victims are set free from their sinful desire for vengeance."

Signatories to the statement include organizations like the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical Alliance, the Evangelical Fellowship of India, the Asian Evangelical Alliance, Alianza Evangelica Latina, the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia, Jordan Evangelical Council, the Evangelical Alliance of Arabic speakers in Europe and Association of the Iraqi National Evangelical Churches.

Other Evangelical alliances represented Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Qatar, Algeria and Egypt.  

"We believe that the Church to which we belong bears a responsibility to help break these cycles of violence by helping people be set free from their desire for vengeance, and to work towards the flourishing of all people in the Holy Land and in the Middle East."

The Israeli offensive in Gaza was sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel that killed over 1,400 civilians, including over 30 Americans. Hamas, an internationally recognized militant terror organization, has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. 

In response, Israel quickly launched retaliatory airstrikes into Gaza and began a ground invasion in northern Gaza late last month after urging civilians to flee to southern Gaza. Hamas-run health authorities claim that over 10,000 people have been killed since Israel's retaliatory airstrikes began. The Gaza health authorities don't distinguish between fighters and civilians in its death tolls. Israel has long accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

Early Monday, Israeli troops encircled Gaza City and isolated the northern section of the territory, The Associated Press reports, citing Israeli news outlets that say military entry into the city is anticipated soon, potentially leading to intense urban combat as militants are predicted to employ an extensive tunnel network for defense.

The Evangelical groups not only called for a ceasefire in Gaza but also urged Hamas to release all hostages. They condemned narratives that dehumanize based on ethnicity or religion, including all forms of racism and antisemitism.

Last month, a coalition of Christian and Jewish religious leaders signed a letter calling on President Joe Biden to refrain from pressuring Israel into a ceasefire with Hamas, asserting such a move would imperil Israel's future security.

Published in The Jerusalem Post and signed by over 50 Israeli and American religious figures, that letter praised Biden's visit to Israel, stressing the necessity for Israel to fully dismantle Hamas.

"It is not sufficient for Israel to degrade or even defeat this brutal terrorist regime, which oppresses its own people. Israel must completely destroy every Hamas terrorist, so that this evil is erased from human history. If America pressures Israel into a ceasefire, Israel's enemies will be emboldened, and Israel imperiled, long into the future," the letter read.

The signatories included Prestonwood Baptist Church Pastor Jack Graham, Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, Congress of Christian Leaders President Johnnie Moore, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former President Donald Trump's spiritual advisor Paula White. 

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