Leaders of Palestinian Christian Churches: We will not abandon Gaza

23 October 2023 20:26
Patriarch Theophilos and representatives of the Christian Churches of the Holy Land. Photo: jerusalem-patriarchate.info Patriarch Theophilos and representatives of the Christian Churches of the Holy Land. Photo: jerusalem-patriarchate.info

Christian leaders in the Holy Land believe that "the Church must do its humanitarian work, especially in times of war".

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Christian Churches in Palestine and the Holy Land say they will not abandon the Gaza Strip despite shelling by the Israeli army, reports the website of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

Condemning the strike on the St. Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza, Christian church leaders wrote: "These blasts led to the sudden and catastrophic collapse of two church halls around the scores of refugees, including women and children, sleeping within. Dozens found themselves instantly crushed beneath the rubble. Many were injured, some – severely. At last count, eighteen have died, nine of them were children."

The statement wrote that this was but the latest instance of innocent civilians being injured or killed as a result of missile strikes against other shelters of last resort "where refugees had fled because their homes were demolished in the relentless bombing campaign waged against residential areas in Gaza over the past two weeks".

"Despite the devastation wrought upon our own and other social, religious and humanitarian institutions, we, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches, nevertheless remain fully committed to fulfilling our sacred and moral duty of offering assistance, support and refuge to those civilians who come to us in such desperate need," the Church leaders said.

They emphasized, "Even in the face of ceaseless military demands to evacuate our charitable institutions and houses of worship, we will not abandon this Christian mission for there is literary no other safe place for these innocents to turn.”

"Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to minister to the most vulnerable. And we must do so not only in times of peace. The Church must especially act as the church in times of war, for that is when human suffering is at its greatest," the appeal said.

At the same time, the Heads of Churches stress that they cannot fulfil this mission alone. Therefore, they call on the international community to "immediately enforce protection in Gaza for Sanctuaries of Refuge such as hospitals, schools and houses of worship."

"We call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire so that food, water and vital medical supplies can safely be delivered to the relief agencies ministering to the hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in Gaza, including those operated by our own churches," the document said.

In addition, the Christian leaders called on all warring parties to "de-escalate the violence, cease from indiscriminately targeting civilians on all sides, and operate within the international rules of warfare".

"Only in this way, we believe, can the groundwork be laid for an eventual diplomatic consideration of long-standing grievances so that a just and lasting peace can finally be achieved throughout our beloved Holy Land – both in our time and for generations to come," conclude the leaders of the Christian Churches of the Holy Land.

As earlier reported, the World Council of Churches condemned the strike on the Orthodox church in Gaza.

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