Churches should back concerted efforts to establish secure everyday living for Palestinians and Israelis following the Gaza ceasefire, says the moderator of the Northern Synod of the United Reformed Church.
Writing on the URC's national website, the Rev Rowena Francis says that it is important for Christians, Jews and Muslims, who share a focus on Israel/Palestine "to give thanks for the ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian."
Yet, she adds, "peace will only become permanent when the people of Palestine and Israel can live their daily lives, and raise their families, in safety."
Ms Francis continues: "There now needs to be concerted effort to establish secure everyday living for Palestinians and Israelis. This means securing supplies of water and food, and easing the blockade. It means improving access to education, employment and health care for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. It means diminishing the risk of attack on the streets and in homes, by all groups refusing to resort to violence. It means repentance for disproportionate violence carried out and the loss of life and injury done."
She continues: "It is only when people feel that there is justice, and they have a sense of control over their everyday lives, that there will be the possibility of lasting peace. A lasting peace in which all people have what they need for daily living. A lasting peace in which – impossible though it may seem – Israeli and Palestinian children can play side by side – brandishing not sticks and stones, but toys and smiles.
"We have to recognise our interdependence on one another, and risk exposure of our different vulnerabilities, to play a part in making lasting peace a possibility. It is good that the immediate conflict is reduced; now we have to hope and pray for a renewed commitment to seeking this longer term just peace."
Meanwhile, the Anglican Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, at a special service of prayer and lament for the victims of the war in Gaza, has spoken of his “profound sorrow” at the slaughter and devastation in the Middle East.
Questions have been asked about why he and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who last made a statement on the issue on 31 December last year, have apparently been so quiet on the unfolding tragedy.
“I have received letters, calls and e-mails asking me why I haven't spoken out the answer is that, up until now, I have not known what to say,” Dr Sentamu commented.
“The incomprehensible suffering of the innocent leaves one in a place of profound sorrow and silence in the face of such suffering. It is essential at such times that we engage in prayer, even if we feel in the light of such suffering, that our prayers are going straight into a concrete bucket. But suffering ultimately calls for a response, and that response is prayer.”
The Archbishop of York said that his decision to speak last week was made while watching television coverage of the conflict.