The Presbyterian Church in Canada joins in prayer for the people of Palestine and Israel as they face war, danger and uncertainty.

Christian Leaders Urge Canada to End Cycle of Violence in Israel and Palestine

Gathering for the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage in Ottawa on May 22, Christian leaders urged Canada to help end the cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine. Starting at Minto Park, participants marched on Parliament Hill, where they gathered for a vigil, followed by a news conference.

You can learn more here and see photos of the event here .

News Conference, Gaza Pilgrimage Ottawa 2024During a news conference, church leaders from across Canada urged the federal government to support a ceasefire in Gaza and sustainable peacebuilding in Israel and Palestine. In attendance are Rev. Carmen Lansdowne (moderator of the United Church of Canada), Rev. Susan Johnson (national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada), Leah Reesor-Keller (transitional executive director of KAIROS Canada), Rev. Andrew Asbil (bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto), and Doug Klassen (executive minister with Mennonite Church Canada). The news conference was recorded and is available to view here .

The Hill Times (May 22, 2024 issue) published the following Op-Ed by Leah Reesor-Keller, MA, Transitional Executive Director, KAIROS Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, Moderator of The United Church of Canada, and the Rev. Dr. J. Dorcas Gordon, Principal Emerita, Knox College, The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

In January, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take measures to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip. The government of Israel is not following this order.

Since the ICJ’s ruling , about 9,000 Gazans have been killed, humanitarian aid blocked , and several aid workers killed . Now, Israel has started a military offensive on Rafah, where 1.5 million civilians shelter because there is no safe place to relocate in their homeland.

As Christian faith leaders, we are compelled to speak against hatred and injustice, and to pursue peace. We urgently ask the Canadian government to unequivocally uphold international law and human rights, and hold states accountable for their legal obligations.

KAIROS Canada and its member churches represent more than four million Canadians. Our Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage: Canadian Churches for Just Peace , where pilgrims walk or roll – in full or part – the 41-kilometre length of Gaza, offers solidarity for the people of Palestine and Israel, and culminates in a pilgrimage to Parliament Hill on May 22.

Many of us have longstanding partnerships with civil society and church-led partners in Israel and Palestine, some of whom receive international assistance from the Canadian government. For years, we have joined hands with them to urge an end to the cycles of violence and the decades-long occupation.

Our partners witness and survive the harsh impacts of Israeli occupation and the current armed conflict, which has overwhelmingly affected women and children. Under occupation, our partners see the lack of access to agricultural land, places of work, and medical support; child arrests; interrogation, and, often, detention without charges under Israeli military law. During the bombing and ground assault, they watch helplessly as family members are killed, their bodies buried under the rubble.

Despite this, our partners are committed to peacebuilding and providing essential support to their communities.

One of us, the Rev. Dr. Dorcas Gordon, just returned from Palestine. After seven days of intense conversations with NGOs, Christian church leaders and UN agencies in the occupied West Bank, on the latest of many such trips, she shares their message to the Canadian government: Work honestly for peace with justice committed to ending the devastation of war, occupation, and ethnic cleansing.

Since Hamas’s surprise attack against Israeli civilians and soldiers on October 7, Israel’s response has resulted in the deaths of more than 34,600 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Those who remain are at great risk of dying from persistent armed conflict, disease, dehydration, famine, and lack of adequate medical care.

Every state has a right to defend itself according to international law. It must do so within the bounds of these laws, including the laws governing occupation. Collective punishment and attacks against civilians violate this law, whether by immediate violent force or long-term structural oppression.

We know from the response to Ukrainian refugees that we are capable of much more support to Palestinian refugees and family reunification. The Canadian government’s lack of response to this crisis is cause for deep concern.

Canada was slow to call for a ceasefire.

Canada paused UNRWA funding.

Canada ships military equipment to Israel; clearly, doing so is in violation of international law.

Canada agreed to stop approving arms sales to Israel, but it has not stopped shipments of arms already approved. It must do so immediately or it is complicit in war crimes and violations of human rights. Ending all arms transfers to Israel is one of five calls by national and local church leaders, congregations, and communities of faith across Canada.

The other calls are: an enduring and sustained ceasefire; immediate flow of life-saving humanitarian assistance to Gaza; the release of all captives – including hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, and an end to the Israeli occupation.

Canada is vocal in its support for a rules-based international order and international humanitarian law. We urge it to apply this approach to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and to immediately and decisively adopt our calls to action.

Canada can play a critical role in international efforts to end this cycle of violence. It can help Israelis and Palestinians lay the foundations for lasting, just and equitable peace in their homelands.

A peace that is so urgently needed for the security, rights and dignity of all.

Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage: Canadian Churches for Just Peace

Join us today and in the weeks to come in the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage: Canadian Churches for Just Peace! Thousands of Canadian Christians have already, throughout Lent, walked, rolled, and prayed together for an enduring and sustained ceasefire between Israel and Hamas; an immediate flow of life-saving food, water, aid, fuel and humanitarian assistance into Gaza; the release of all captives; and the end of occupation so a just-peace can begin.
This global ecumenical movement of prayerful solidarity with the people of Gaza and with Palestinian and Israeli partners on the road to justice and peace continues. In your local communities, participate in the Pilgrimage by organizing/attending events, walking, praying, and letting others know. Learn more and share your events, experiences and photos with KAIROS Canada, lead organizer (https://www.kairoscanada.org/gaza-ceasefire-pilgrimage ).
You are also invited to join us in Ottawa on Parliament Hill on May 22nd if you are able.

Easter Reflection: “Be Agents of Peace, Justice and Reconciliation”

Three months ago, it was dark in Bethlehem at Christmas, and the city was in darkness and fear. The angels’ song, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all people,” was hard to fathom amid the violence.

This is Holy Week, and our attention shifts from Bethlehem and its surrounding hills to Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, and the place called Golgotha. And the violence continues. For centuries, pilgrims have come to Jerusalem to mark the events of Holy Week, wave palm branches, pray at Gethsemane, lament on the Mount of Olives, and trace Jesus’s steps along the stations of the cross. This year, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank were prevented by Israeli authorities from entering the occupied city of Jerusalem to participate in Palm Sunday devotions. Christian Palestinians are required to obtain special permits to pass through military checkpoints surrounding Jerusalem and go to places of worship, especially the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Prayer and Advocacy

In the Kairos Palestine Easter Message, His Beatitude, the (Latin) Patriarch of Jerusalem Emeritus, Michel Sabbah, writes, “Pray with us and work and be agents of peace, justice and reconciliation in this holy land.”

Patriarch Michel Sabbah and Rifat Kassis, Secretary General of Kairos Palestine, offer this prayer:

O God, in this time of darkness and despair, we lift our hearts to You in prayer.
We pray for an end to the war and bloodshed in Gaza, and we ask for Your mercy to spare the lives of innocent civilians caught in this genocide war.

Grant wisdom to world leaders and decision-makers to seek peaceful resolutions and to prioritize the safety, well-being, and dignity of all people. Comfort those who mourn the loss of loved ones and strengthen those who are working tirelessly for justice and those who work for providing humanitarian assistance to the people in need.

We entrust the lives of the people of Gaza into Your loving hands, trusting in Your grace and mercy to bring an end to their suffering in a new era of peace, justice, equality, free of occupation, oppression and dispossession.

Visit https://www.kairospalestine.ps/index.php/resources/alerts/kairos-palestine-easter-alert-2024 to read the Kairos Palestine Easter Appeal 2024. The Appeal includes updates on the situation in Gaza and a meditation by Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah.

Bethlehem

Graffiti in Bethlehem. Credit: PCC

Amid war, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have called “upon our congregations to stand strong with those facing such afflictions, by this year foregoing any unnecessarily festive activities.” The statement notes that while, under normal circumstances, displays of light would mark the birth of Christ, this year is marked with the loss of thousands of lives, including women and children, with many grieving “the loss of their homes, their loved ones, or the uncertain fate of those dear to them.” The statement also invites “the faithful to advocate, pray, and contribute generously as they are able for the relief of the victims of this war and for those in dire need, as well as to encourage others to join them in this mission of mercy”. This call and others have resulted in the cancellation of all public festivities and decorations to mark the season. Read more

Amidst the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian farmers residing in the West Bank are gearing up for their olive tree planting season. The fields have been prepared for the orchards since before October of this year. The Joint Advocacy Initiative (initiated by our local partners, the East Jerusalem YWCA/YMCA), which oversees the campaign, has confirmed that the planting will proceed despite security concerns. However, the number of trees planted will be reduced to 15,000. The farmers will handle the planting themselves. The Presbyterian Church in Canada has sponsored the planting of 261 trees in Bethlehem and Hebron between 2022 and 2023. The PCC is accepting donations for the Olive Tree Campaign and you can contribute to this campaign, which will help Palestinian farmers to replant their destroyed olive orchards.

Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) is planning humanitarian assistance that will be provided through members of the ACT Alliance. PWS&D’s humanitarian response will assist with shelter, food, livelihoods, emergency health, psychosocial and mental health support, as well as cash assistance to allow people to purchase the goods they require.

The Presbyterian Church in Canada asks that people pray for all who are affected and threatened and for an end to violence and a just peace in the land of Christ’s birth.

God of truth, mercy and peace,
God of life and of reconciliation,
we mourn the suffering and murder of your people
and we pray for a just peace
and reconciliation for the people of Palestine and Israel
who have endured the burden of violence and conflict for so long.
Console those who grieve,
heal the injured,
comfort those who are alone and afraid,
protect those who are held hostage, and
restrain those who would cause more violence
or act cynically for political gain and power.
Let wisdom settle on your churches
and on the governments and leaders of this world
so that justice is sought,
reconciliation found,
peace established and
security provided for all.
In the name of Jesus, we pray.
Amen.

STATEMENTS AND LETTERS SIGNED BY THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN CANADA

The Presbyterian Church in Canada has joined the call by 16 global humanitarian and human rights organizations demanding all UN member states halt arms transfers to Israel and Palestinian armed groups fuelling the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Read more about the open call here.

The ACT Alliance Canada (ACT Canada), of which Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) is a member, has written to the Government of Canada to “take immediate steps to provide leadership in bringing an end to the suffering. We declare, ‘Enough is Enough!’  We welcome an opportunity to meet with you and other officials to work together to put this declaration into concrete actions.”

Image of arrow pointing downView or download the letter:
The letter from the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada urges the Prime Minister of Canada to call for a ceasefire, the safe release of all hostages, a safe corridor for humanitarian aid, de-escalation of violence and an end to the blockade in the ongoing violence between Hamas and Israel.

Image of arrow pointing downView or download the letter:
KAIROS Canada and its member churches and agencies condemn the current violence against Israeli and Palestinian civilians in Israel, Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and call on Canada to do everything in its power to support an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated solution.

In response to the spiralling violence, they have issued an ecumenical statement, A Cry to End the Violence and to uphold the rights of all civilians to life and freedom from violence and discrimination.  In it, they write:

“We join the voices of those in the region and others in Canada and internationally in urging the Canadian Government to support a ceasefire and a negotiated resolution to this violence. The pain and tragedy of the growing numbers of civilian lives, Israeli and Palestinian, lost in the violence to date are evidence of the need for an immediate ceasefire, not an escalation of violence.”

Image of arrow pointing downView or download the full statement:

PREVIOUS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ACTIONS AND ENDORSEMENTS

This page chronicles principles the General Assembly has endorsed or actions it has taken related to Israel and Palestine:
https://presbyterian.ca/justice/social-action/human-rights/human-rights-in-the-middle-east/

ECUMENICAL CHURCH STATEMENTS

Read the ACT Palestine Forum’s statement on the violence in Gaza

PARENTS CIRCLE FAMILY FORUM (PCFF)

The PCC’s recipient of the Cutting Edge of Mission Award for 2023, Parents Circle Family Forum, wrote in the earliest days of the violence that the “relentless cycle of conflict has inflicted immeasurable pain and suffering on innocent lives. It is a time of great sorrow, knowing that countless families now bear the burden of emptiness in their hearts and the heavy weight of grief due to the tragic loss of their loved ones.” The Forum is made up of parents, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost children due to the ongoing conflict. You can watch the videos of the presentation during the 2023 General Assembly and the two recipients of the award on behalf of PCFF, Laila AlSheIkh and Robi Damelin .

Laila AlShekh
Robi Damelin