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United Methodists, others denounce Middle East violence

Posted: October 9 2023 at 12:00 AM
Author: Victoria Rebeck

Church leaders are calling for an end to violence in the Middle East that is causing death and injury to Palestinians and Israelis alike.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops are “appalled and dismayed,” according to their statement, distributed on Oct. 9.  

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, conducted a surprise attack on Israel. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that “We are at war and we will win it.” On Oct. 8, Israel ordered a complete siege of the Gaza Strip.

‘Inhumane attacks’


“We condemn the Hamas militants who have killed and captured civilians, women, and children in Israel,” the bishops say in their statement. “We equally decry the deaths of innocent civilians, women, and children caught in the crossfire of the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to decrying the “inhumane” Hamas attacks, the bishops find Israel’s declaration of war “deeply saddening.”

“In just a few hours since this latest outbreak of violence more than 1000 people have died,” the bishops note.

They implore United Methodists to pray and donate to relief efforts.

“We call on all United Methodists to renew a deepened commitment to pray for those who have been injured, abducted, or killed, and to deepen our prayers for those who have suddenly lost a loved one. . . . More than that, pray that God’s peace will, throughout the land and in the hearts of all those who are initiating this conflict.”

They also urge churches to prepare to collect offerings for United Methodist Committee on Relief, so the agency—on behalf of all United Methodists—can provide specific resources to assist in providing shelter, food, and other necessities to those who have been left homeless, helpless, and afraid. (Information on how to support UMCOR efforts during this armed conflict will be provided once the agency announces it.)

Complicated situation

The Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem released a statement calling on Methodists around the world “to continue to pray for peace and for an end to the violence.” 

The Liaison Office is a partnership of the World Methodist Council, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the Methodist Church in Great Britain. Northern Illinois’s Rev. Jane Eesely is its United Methodist staff person.

“The situation is complicated, and we recognize the fear and sense of injustice that are felt, but we call on both sides not to resort to further violence and to engage in negotiation to establish a peaceful solution for all who live in the Holy Land,” the office statement says.

Christians around the world speak

The World Council of Churches has also denounced the violence. The ecumenical organization’s general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, “appeals urgently for an immediate cessation of this deadly violence, for Hamas to cease their attacks and ask both parties for de-escalation of the situation.

“We are deeply concerned about the imminent risks of spiraling conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, and of the inevitably tragic consequences for the people of the region--Israelis and Palestinians alike--following a period of escalating tensions and violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

The organization has also posted on its website statements from leaders of churches in Jerusalem and Jordan. 

From those statements:

“The continuing bloodshed and declarations of war remind us once again of the urgent need to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict in this land, which is called to be a land of justice, peace, and reconciliation among peoples.”—Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem 

“We implore political leaders and authorities to engage in sincere dialogue, seeking lasting solutions that promote justice, peace, and reconciliation for the people of this land, who have endured the burdens of conflict for far too long.”—Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem

“As a church, we continue to advocate for non-violence; but we also believe it is crucial to understand the circumstances from which violence emerges. In this case, it is a symptom of a people deeply wounded by extended and systematic violence and oppression. The Holy Land has also seen unprecedented attacks on religious sites in recent years, which makes our situation even more personal and emotional.”—The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land 

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