LWF Reiterates Support for Holy Land Vision of Peace, Urges Ceasefire in Gaza; General Secretary Calls for Prayers, Advocacy, as North American Lutheran Bishops Visit Middle East

January 8, 2009

 The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) reiterates its commitment to a vision of peace for both Israelis and Palestinians, urging an immediate cessation of both Israeli military operations on Gaza and Hamas missile attacks on southern Israel, and the swift establishment of a workable ceasefire agreement.

In a statement released today, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko says, “The present bloodshed and destruction will not secure peace for either Israelis or Palestinians. It will only plant the seeds for more conflict, marginalizing the peacemakers, breeding despair, promoting radicalization and strengthening the appeal of violence.”

Reports citing local medical sources put the Palestinian death toll at more than 550 and nearly 3,000 civilian injuries, since Israel launched its 27 December operation on Gaza, including ground assaults since 3 January, aimed at stopping Hamas militants from firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel. Hamas says it has killed five Israelis by rocket fire and in combat.

Pointing to the impact of the Israeli siege on the entire civilian population of Gaza during the six-month ceasefire, Noko notes the blockade “imposed severe suffering on the entire civilian population of Gaza, fostering despair and rage rather than promoting an atmosphere for negotiations and peace.” He adds however, that attacks by Hamas and other militant organizations “are condemned by the LWF as an unacceptable response threatening the lives of another civilian population.” Equally, while Israel has an obligation to protect its people and territory, its current military operations “are disproportionate to the actual threat and have resulted in an intolerable number of civilian deaths and injuries.”

The general secretary expresses grave concern for the critical humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, urging the Israeli government to ensure full humanitarian access to the people compelled to survive this conflict “without electricity, medical supplies, or sufficient food or water.”

Citing the LWF’s long-standing support to its member church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in various activities fostering the establishment of peace with justice in the Holy Land, Noko insists the root cause of the Middle East conflict must be addressed. “The interpretation of God’s promise to Abraham and differing understandings of who may rightfully claim his legacy, which lie at the very heart of this conflict, can only be resolved by dialogue and reconciliation among all his children,” he says.

He criticizes both parties’ short-sighted focus on political gains through “displays of armed power,” rather than on the “difficult search for peace,” saying this approach was a betrayal of the Israeli and Palestinian “peoples’ hopes for a peaceful future.”

Noko released his statement as a delegation of bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, led by LWF President Bishop Mark S. Hanson, proceeded with their visits with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian religious, community and political leaders, under an annual event hosted by the ELCJHL.

He appeals to all LWF member churches to pray for peace, advocate for justice, and convey these concerns to political leaders. “Without a just peace in the Holy Land, there can be no true or sustainable peace for any of us,” Noko concludes.

The full text of the general secretary’s statement is available on the LWF web site at: http://www.lutheranworld.org/LWF_Documents/LWF-Statement_Gaza_Jan_2009.pd

The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the world, with a total membership of over 68.3 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

(Forwarded from Lutheran World Federation)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 162,000 baptized members in 613 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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