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Church leaders deplore Gaza violence

At the height of Israel’s intervention in Gaza last month, New Zealand church leaders signed a statement urging Christians to pray for peace and political leaders to bring about first a ceasefire and then a lasting solution to conflict in the region.

Presbyterian moderator Rt Rev Graham Redding says the joint statement, made at the prompting of Christian World Service (CWS), asks that we pray for the victims and perpetrators of violence and support CWS efforts to provide aid to the people of Gaza.

Graham says he was encouraged when a ceasefire was declared but peace is more than a ceasefire.

"A longer term peace must be part of the equation. Jesus Christ broke the cycle violence. As his followers, praying for our enemies is the way Christians advocate and proclaim. This is not easy.

"There can be a tendency to reduce complex issues to a simple formula and blame either Hamas for the bombing or Israel for its disproportionate response.

"The World Council of Churches website has posted statements by churches from all around the world. Our voice is one in the chorus of protest and concern that I hope will give a stronger mandate to peacemakers and diplomats so they can find peace for a region that is gripped in a cycle of violence and counter violence."

NZ Church leaders’ statement on Gaza

The leaders of New Zealand churches are deeply concerned about the dire situation in Gaza and support the call for an immediate ceasefire in the region

The escalation of violence and associated increase in civilian casualties is intolerable. It is time for concerted action to end the suffering of the 1.5 million people trapped within the 360 square kilometers of Gaza with little food, water and medicine, and under almost continuous attack from the land, sea and air.

Before the collapse of the ceasefire in December, the borders of Gaza were tightly controlled and movement in and out very difficult. Now the conditions are much more lethal. The consequences of this unparalleled pressure cannot be underestimated. Already many innocent civilians have been killed and injured. People are living in perpetual fear and growing numbers of people are in desperate need of food and water as well as medical treatment. The trauma will have a lasting effect on everyone and is undermining any possibility of negotiating a just and sustainable peace.

To date the international community has failed to broker a lasting peace. We urge the New Zealand government to do all that it can through the United Nations and through its own diplomatic efforts to call a halt to Israel’s military offensive and the Hamas attacks. New Zealand has an obligation to uphold the international community’s ‘Responsibility to Protect’ populations from war crimes as agreed at the United Nations’ Millennium Summit.

As followers of Jesus, who exercised his ministry of reconciliation in this troubled region, Christians are deeply concerned about Jewish-Palestinian enmity. While religion is often tragically used to fuel inherited hostilities, it can also be a force for shalom/salaam. It is our hope and prayer that all adherents of the three Abrahamic faiths in that region might truly seek the way of peace and reconciliation to which their scriptures bear witness.

We encourage church members and all people of goodwill to:

· Pray for the victims and perpetrators of violence in Gaza and Israel.

· Pray for the success of diplomatic efforts between Hamas, the Israeli Government, and the international community.

· Pray for peace and reconciliation.

· Urge the New Zealand government, world leaders and the United Nations to take effective action to work towards a just resolution of the conflict in the interests of long term security and peace.

· Support the Christian World Service and Caritas Gaza Appeals providing desperately needed food, fuel, water and medicines in Gaza.

Jabez Bryce, Bishop of Polynesia, Anglican Church

John A Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, Roman Catholic Church

Rodney Macann, National Leader, Baptist Union of NZ

Garth McKenzie, Territorial Commander, Salvation Army

David Moxon, Bishop of the New Zealand Dioceses, Anglican Church

Graham Redding, Moderator, Presbyterian Church

Mia Tay, Clerk, Religious Society of Friends

Brown Turei, Bishop of Aotearoa, Anglican Church

Jill van der Geer, President, Methodist Church