Random Links 306 (“Diverse Opinion” Edition)

Letter from the general secretary to WCC member churches in the Middle East

The statements and letters of WCC have become very helpful in at least stating a Christian response to the crisis. The closing prayer is noteworthy.

Through all the days of 2008, the situation grew worse. Now, we are calling on Christians everywhere to pray for peace and, wherever possible, to inspire and encourage their leaders in the constructive work that leads beyond enmity to reconciliation. As a new year dawns, we pray for you with a prayer from Palestine and Israel.

God of mercy and compassion,
Of grace and reconciliation,
Pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust,
Despair to hope, oppression to freedom,
Occupation to liberation,
That violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
And peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen. 

LWF Reiterates Support for Holy Land Vision of Peace, Urges Ceasefire in Gaza

Good to hear from the Lutheran World Federation too.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) reiterates its commitment to a vision of peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, urging an immediate cessation of both Israeli military operations on Gaza and Hamas missile attacks on southern Israel, and the swift establishment of a workable ceasefire agreement.

In a statement released today, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko says, “The present bloodshed and destruction will not secure peace for either Israelis or Palestinians. It will only plant the seeds for more conflict, marginalizing the peacemakers, breeding despair, promoting radicalization and strengthening the appeal of violence.”

Reports citing local medical sources put the Palestinian death toll at more than 550 and nearly 3,000 civilian injuries, since Israel launched its 27 December operation on Gaza, including ground assaults since 3 January, aimed at stopping Hamas militants from firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel. Hamas says it has killed five Israelis by rocket fire and in combat.

Pointing to the impact of the Israeli siege on the entire civilian population of Gaza during the six-month ceasefire, Noko notes the blockade “imposed severe suffering on the entire civilian population of Gaza, fostering despair and rage rather than promoting an atmosphere for negotiations and peace.” He adds however, that attacks by Hamas and other militant organizations “are condemned by the LWF as an unacceptable response threatening the lives of another civilian population.” Equally, while Israel has an obligation to protect its people and territory, its current military operations “are disproportionate to the actual threat and have resulted in an intolerable number of civilian deaths and injuries.”

. . .  

He criticizes both parties’ short-sighted focus on political gains through “displays of armed power,” rather than on the “difficult search for peace,” saying this approach was a betrayal of the Israeli and Palestinian “peoples’ hopes for a peaceful future.”

Noko released his statement as a delegation of bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, led by LWF President Bishop Mark S. Hanson, proceeded with their visits with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian religious, community and political leaders under an annual event hosted by the ELCJHL. (See separate story at: www.lutheranworld.org/News/LWI/EN/2317.EN.html)

He appeals to all LWF member churches to pray for peace, advocate for justice, and convey these concerns to political leaders. “Without a just peace in the Holy Land, there can be no true or sustainable peace for any of us,” Noko concludes

ECI stands by Czech EU presidency in supporting Israel’s right to self defense

I’ve been getting links from friends who feel that the media in Malaysia is one sided. So, I decided to compile these random links which show different views that can be very diverse and even conflicting.  Looking at the link above, I can’t imagine a critical Christian position that would give unqualified support to any nation right? Read on .

ECI likes to reiterate the main objective of Hamas which is the complete destruction of Israel. In trying to achieve its goal it has shown no respect for human life, and has used its own civilian population as human shields against the Israeli army. These actions constitute the gravest crimes against humanity and must immediately be condemned by the world community.

It is of utmost importance that the European Union and the world community at large ensure that Gaza will cease to be a platform for terrorist activities and help rebuild a society free from hatred and violence. The best way to end the current military operation with innocent suffering on both sides is for Hamas to stop firing rockets and mortars into Israel and commit to living in peace with its neighbors.

Merkel: The terror of Hamas cannot be accepted

I have quite a few emails today saying that not enough is said on the terror of the Hamas Militia.  Whatever is said, in war the civilians always suffer the most whether Israeli or Palestinian.

Merkel demanded that Hamas "immediately and permanently" stop its rocket attacks on Israel.

In contrast, the foreign policy spokesman of the FDP, MP Werner Hoyer, told Spiegel Online that "raising the question of guilt" is the wrong approach to the peace process.

The Left Party MP and its foreign policy expert, Wolfgang Gehrcke, demanded that Merkel and SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly criticize Israel.

Gehrke recommended that the German parliament convene a special session of the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the situation in Gaza.

Ending the War in Gaza

This is one rare link which attempts to show the perspectives on both sides.

To be sustainable, cessation of hostilities must be directly followed by steps addressing both sides’ core concerns:

an indefinite ceasefire pursuant to which:

  • Hamas would halt all rocket launches, keep armed militants at 500 metres from Israel’s border and make other armed organisations comply; and

  • Israel would halt all military attacks on and withdraw all troops from Gaza;

real efforts to end arms smuggling into Gaza, led by Egypt in coordination with regional and international actors;

dispatch of a multinational monitoring presence to verify adherence to the ceasefire, serve as liaison between the two sides and defuse potential crises; countries like France, Turkey and Qatar, as well as organisations such as the UN, could play an important part in this; and

opening of Gaza’s crossings with Israel and Egypt, together with:

  • return of an EU presence at the Rafah crossing and its extension to Gaza’s crossings with Israel; and

  • coordination between Hamas authorities and the (Ramallah-based) PA at the crossings.

That last point – Hamas’s role – is, of course, the rub, the unresolved dilemma that largely explains why the tragedy unfolded as it did. Gaza’s two-year story has been one of collective failure: by Hamas, which missed the opportunity to act as a responsible political actor; of Israel, which stuck to a shortsighted policy of isolating Gaza and seeking to undermine Hamas that neither helped it nor hurt them; of the PA leadership, which refused to accept the consequences of the Islamists’ electoral victory, sought to undo it and ended up looking like the leader of one segment of the Palestinian community against the other; and of the international community, many regional actors included, which demanded Hamas turn from militant to political organisation without giving it sufficient incentives to do so and only recognised the utility of Palestinian unity after spending years obstructing it.

Church Toolkit for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

I thought this was a good resource for Churches who want to raise awareness on the matter.  In a conversation with a Muslim friend, I confessed I need to get a better grasp of the issues.  I think many Christians would probably say the same thing. Knowledge is one thing, keeping our prejudices and assumptions in check is another.

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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