Following the commemorations of one hundred years since the outbreak of a ‘war to end all wars’, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is urging recognition of the fact the world is not at peace and far too many people today are seeking to survive bombs, bullets, tear gas, and terror from conflict and war. This is sharply focussed in the conflict that exists in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Moderator, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, is asking “How can the people of Gaza become good neighbours unless they are released from the oppression under which they exist?”  The Moderator’s full statement on behalf of Church of Scotland reads:  “In the face of the particular tragedy of Gaza, and the disturbing loss of so many civilian lives, the Church of Scotland actively engages with its local contacts in the region and seeks to support and amplify their efforts in seeking a just and lasting peace for all the people.  The Church of Scotland remains committed, through prayer and action, to a just and sustained peace in Israel and Palestine, and continues to uphold all people there in prayer. The Church joins with others in welcoming any genuine cease-fire in Gaza, by Israel or its opposing combatants, and we urge that it continues. Only an end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the firing of missiles into Israel from Gaza will lead to conditions from which a just resolution may come.  However, this is only the first step towards tackling the humanitarian disaster for the people of Gaza. With others, especially the Churches agency Christian Aid, we recognise without an end to the Israeli Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, which has been in place since 1967, there can be no full and lasting peace for either Palestine or Israel. The Occupation must end.  The Church of Scotland is calling for these immediate actions:  The Church calls for the blockade of Gaza by Israel to end and for the normal movement of people and goods in and out of the territory to resume. Initial priority should be given to much needed relief measures.  The Church calls for sustained peace negotiations which should include all local parties and for the international community to work as honest brokers. These negotiations should seek a secure country for Israelis and a viable homeland for the Palestinian people.  Gaza is smaller than the island of Arran, yet its population is larger than that of Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley. On one interpretation it is the world’s largest prison camp. There is no place for people to hide.  The scandal of suffering in Gaza will only be alleviated through the full, committed and fair-minded engagement of the international community, especially the United States of America, along with the other members of the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the EU and Russia) working with all the local and regional parties to start peace-building measures. We look to our own UK Government to play a full and committed part in this.”

The Moderator hopes that even at this stage something hopeful can arise from the despair of this current conflict.  Things you can do:  The churches’ agency in international relief and development is Christian Aid and we can support its Gaza appeal:  Christian Aid Gaza appeal  The World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel takes place annually in September. Join in with your church and highlight the justice issues in your church and community. World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel  On the 24th of every month, the Action of Churches Together (ACT) Palestine has called the world to pray with the Christians in Palestine and Israel, for all in these lands, Either join and organised one, or create an opportunity in your church: Pray for Peace in the Middle East   The Church of Scotland’s contacts in the region include the Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, YMCA, YWCA, Near East Council of Churches, Sabeel Theology Centre, Lutheran World Federation, Rabbis for Human Rights, B’t selem, and others.

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