Jan. 25, 2008
By Elliott Wright*
NEW YORK (UMNS) – The head of the mission agency of The United Methodist Church has expressed deep concern about the situation in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza following incidents in which Israel closed the border to essential supplies of food and fuel.
Bishop Felton E. May, interim top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said the picture is extremely complex but that his main concern is for the welfare of the people in both Gaza and Israel. Israel’s border action has been attributed to rockets fired into Israel by the Hamas faction now in control in Gaza, a sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea.
The bishop noted that The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for peace and justice in Israel-Palestine. He urged world political leaders to take action to deal with the current border crisis and United Methodists to pray for protection of the dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians in the troubled Holy Land.
“I share the astonishment of Christian leaders in Israel-Palestine that the Israeli government would even temporarily block the movement of food and fuel into Gaza,” May said. “Political expediency cannot be used to starve – or threaten to starve – people or to demean the humanity of any people.”
He also said that “Israeli policy inflexibility is intensified by the actions of Hamas and its rockets.”
The full text of the statement on Gaza follows:
I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Gaza, that small strip of land between Israel and Egypt that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, about half of whom are under 14 years of age. New conflicts are endangering many lives and rekindling animosities in a place where peace seems to have become a vague hope.
The issues are complex, involving control of borders, the movement of food and fuel into Gaza, the continuing launch of rockets into Israel from the militant Hamas faction in Gaza and retaliatory actions by Israel. Evaluations and proposed solutions are also complex and there is little agreement within the international community or within the church on steps that might lead to peace.
The welfare of people both in Gaza and Israel is uppermost in my mind. A bad situation is made worse when Israel closes the border crossings where essential food and fuel pass into Gaza, as has been done in recent days. Gaza is heavily dependent on such imports from Israel since its southern border with Egypt is sealed, or was until it was breached in response to a blockage by Israel in the north. Israeli policy inflexibility is intensified by the actions of Hamas and its rockets.
I share the astonishment of Christian leaders in Israel-Palestine that the Israeli government would even temporarily block the movement of food and fuel into Gaza. Political expediency cannot be used to starve – or threaten to starve – people or to demean the humanity of any people.
The United Methodist Church has a long history of commitment to peace and reconciliation in Israel-Palestine. We believe in the right of Israel to exist within secure borders and the right of Palestinians to self-determination in a secure homeland.
We are concerned for all of the people in a land sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. We identify strongly with the dwindling Christian minority within the Palestinian population.
I have read with anguish a Jan. 21 statement from the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem and Holy Land describing the suffering and frustration caused by the Gaza border crisis and the shut down of supply lines from Israel. Those of us who care about human welfare cannot remain in complicit silence but, rather, urge the political leaders of the world to, indeed, lead – to lead toward real peace and justice in Israel-Palestine without waiting to garner political advantage from half-measures.
We need also, perhaps first of all, to pray. I bow my head, and urge other United Methodists to join me in lifting to God the words of the Christian leaders of the Holy Land in their statement:
“We pray for the Israelis and Palestinians to respect human life and God’s love for every human life, and to take all possible measures to end this suffering. Only bold steps towards just peace and ending the violence will protect the human life and dignity of both people.”
Bishop Felton E. May
Interim General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries
*Wright is the information officer of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.