As the horror continues for civilians living in southern Israel and Gaza, Australian Christian leaders are pleading for churches to pray for peace this coming Sunday.
International Christian Concern reports that the small contingent of Christians living in the Gaza Strip has been sheltering in two churches in Gaza City during this week’s Israeli bombardment, wondering if they will live through this crisis.
On 7 October, the Palestinian militant group Hamas – which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza – executed the deadliest single terrorist attack in Israel’s 75-year history. Amid Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of the Gaza Strip, hundreds were reportedly killed on Tuesday when a missile struck a hospital in northern Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, and international negotiations to allow critical humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing have so far been unsuccessful.
“I’m sure that, like me, you’ve been appalled by the atrocities being committed by Hamas against Israel and the war raining suffering upon both Israeli and Palestinian people,” commented Tim Swan, CEO of Anglican Aid.
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“While The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid does not currently have projects in Israel, we do support work with refugees and displaced people in the surrounding nations of Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and are concerned for the entire region.”
Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop Kanishka Raffel said: “We express our deep sympathy for the families of those who have suffered the loss of loved ones through these indiscriminate attacks, and also for those in Gaza suffering through no fault of their own. We assure the Jewish community in Sydney of our prayers for those injured or in danger and for the establishment of lasting peace and security. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem and long for the day when swords will be beaten into ploughshares (Isaiah 2:4).”
“We express our deep sympathy for the families of those who have suffered the loss of loved ones through these indiscriminate attacks, and also for those in Gaza suffering through no fault of their own.” – Archbishop Kanishka Raffel
Matt Darvas, national director of Micah Australia and a Missions and Justice Pastor at The Grainery Church, in Newcastle, NSW, also urged for prayers for both sides of the conflict.
He said the recent Middle East conflict struck a raw nerve because “both sides of our family’s trees have experienced the maximalist brutality of antisemitism by those who would seek to annihilate Jews completely. The Darvas family only just escaped the Holocaust, where entire branches of our tree were viciously ‘cut off’.”
But, he urged prayers that no further life be lost, Jewish or Palestinian.
“Just as I cannot fathom what it was like for those families gunned down at sunrise on Shabbat in their Kibbutz communities, I am equally wrought with grief and concern for the families now huddled in their Gaza apartments wondering if they will survive what’s to come,” he wrote on social media.
“The Palestinians too belong to family trees ravaged by their own experiences of displacement, persecution, and grief.
“Many on both sides find it deeply offensive to even suggest empathy for the other, especially at such a moment of intensified conflict.
“But Jesus knew this too when he went even further than calling us to be peacemakers, and told us we should also ‘love our enemies.’”
He said this enmity between mankind and its peoples can only be overcome with a love that requires an ability to empathise and to seek reconciliation beyond what is humanly possible in our own limited strengths and faculties.
Gaza’s small Christian community has been sheltering in two churches in Gaza City during this week’s bombardment.
Darvas offered this prayer:
“I pray for a greater love to prevail.
For all evil plans to be thwarted.
For the dignity of all lives to be upheld.
For justice for all those who are persecuted and oppressed.
May there be peace, and may God help us all to press forward towards it.”
Gaza’s small Christian community has been sheltering in two churches in Gaza City during this week’s Israeli bombardment. Both churches lie within north Gaza, the area that the Israeli military has ordered civilians to leave in preparation for an expected ground invasion.
“The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has been made aware of the churches and Christians’ presence in the area,” reports International Christian Concern. “IDF leaders have told private sources that they will protect and ensure that the churches do not become targets in the war.
“Gaza’s civilian population must be protected in this latest escalation of the Hamas-Israel war. Gaza’s churches must not become targets of war, and people taking refuge inside the churches must be protected.”
Political challenges and conflict in recent decades have threatened the continued survival of the Gazan church and its estimated 1000 Christians who face persecution. “In this unprecedented time of crisis, global Christians must pray for Gaza’s Christians to be a light as they serve the suffering people around them,” says International Christian Concern.