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Church Groups Urge Israel and Palestine to 'Step Back from the Brink'

Thursday May 13 2021

Wreckage of a bus and car in Holon, Israel, after a rocket attack. Picture: Yoav Keren, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Church of Scotland has joined other religious organisations in urging Israelis and Palestinians to step back from the brink, as violence continues to escalate in the Holy Land.

As of this morning (Thursday), at least 67 people in Gaza and seven in Israel are reported to have been killed in this week’s clashes, which follow rising tensions over the threatened evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem culminating in violent clashes between police and protesters at al-Aqsa Mosque earlier this week.

The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum, said ‘violence only breeds violence’ and the events at the Mosque were ‘deeply alarming’.

Dr Brown said: “The planned forced evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Occupied East Jerusalem not only dispossess those living there of their homes, dignity and human rights, but represent a major obstacle to ending the occupation and achieving a just peace for all.

“Whilst the grievances on the part of the Palestinian people stem from the structural injustice of the ongoing occupation, where land expropriation and home eviction orders force Palestinians off their land and out of their homes, violence, and the incitement to violence is never the solution.

“Violence only serves to breed violence, and to fuel continuing intolerance and hatred.”

Dr Brown said the Church of Scotland, which has two congregations, a school, guesthouse and hotel in Israel, will continue to work with its Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian partners on the ground.

“We do so in the hope of achieving a just peace for all until the dignity and human rights of all those living in this deeply asymmetrical and intractable conflict can be equally respected,” she added.

The World Council of Churches acting general secretary, the Rev Prof Dr Ioan Sauca, said: “We appeal urgently to all parties to step back from the brink of even more deadly and destructive conflict. We lament every one of the precious lives already lost, Palestinians and Israelis, in Gaza, in Ashkelon, near Lod, and elsewhere.”

Sauca urged people to put down their arms, and work to address the injustices and mutual antagonisms that sustain the recurrent cycles of violence.

“We abhor the violence affecting places of worship, the incursions into the al-Aqsa mosque, and the attacks against synagogues in Lod,” he said. “We pray that the holy places of Jerusalem and the region will not be further desecrated by violence and violations, but instead become centres of inspiration for peace.”

Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Council of Reformed Churches, called for peace in the present moment as well as justice for the Palestinian people. He said: “The present actions by security forces in Jerusalem need to immediately cease and peace be restored. The status of Jerusalem as a holy city and a site for all religious traditions must be maintained while justice is pursued for the Palestinian people.”

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