faith in action

Witness for Peace in Israel and Palestine This Lent

Since the October attacks in Israel, the faith community has been a steadfast witness for peace, urging our elected officials to call for a ceasefire.

Cease fire PWJ

I began my role as Director of Peace With Justice at Church and Society just over a month after the October 7th attacks on Israel and the ensuing Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

So far, it’s been a solemn Lenten season as the bombing of Gaza continues. This Lent, we cannot let attention wane and must continue taking action for peace and justice.

Below is a summary of recent geopolitical updates as well as what you can do to take action for peace during this Lenten season.

Recent Geopolitical Updates

ICJ ruling: After South Africa filed proceedings against Israel alleging violations of obligations under the Genocide Convention, the International Court of Justice called on Israel “to take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide and ensure access to humanitarian aid. It is notable that the Court ruled there is plausibility of Israel committing genocidal actions.

Suspension of funding to UNRWA: Following allegations that 12 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were involved in the October 7th attacks, many donor states have suspended funding for the organization. While the allegations are worrying, and should be investigated, UNRWA is the primary organization providing aid for millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the region.

Congress and the Biden administration: The United States continues to provide military aid to Israel, greenlighting its bombing campaign of Gaza, and Congress has been debating giving billions more in aid to Israel with no accountability measures. But we’re seeing grassroots pressure for oversight working, with the White House issuing a National Security Memorandum ensuring that safeguards exist with respect to arms transfers. However, this remains merely rhetoric as it’s been clear that Israel is targeting civilians with U.S. weapons.

Ceasefire talks and regional escalation: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an offer from Hamas, which included a ceasefire of 4.5 months, release of hostages, Israel withdrawing troops from Gaza, and an end-of-war agreement. This comes amidst further escalation in the region, with Iran-backed militias targeting American service members, retaliatory U.S. strikes against sites in Iraq and Syria, Houthis attacking international shipping lanes, and the U.S. and allies striking Houthi targets in Yemen.

What The United Methodist Church Says

“We must insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them.” 2016 United Methodist Social Principles ¶165.C

Furthermore, as United Methodists, “We seek for all people in the Middle East an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.“ United Methodist Book of Resolutions # 6111, "Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land.”

There is no military solution to the violence in Israel and Palestine, and we must prioritize solutions to root causes of conflict instead of militarized solutions that engender further violence.

What GBCS and Members of The Faith Community Are Calling For

All of these developments mean our calls for peace and justice remain more important than ever. We call on all parties to:

  • Negotiate an immediate, permanent, bilateral ceasefire.
  • Ensure immediate and adequate access to and provision of humanitarian needs.
  • Secure the immediate release of all civilians being held hostage and ensure international protection for all civilians, including civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Abide by international law and investigate claims of violations of domestic and international law.
  • Support the demilitarization of the conflict by withholding further arms shipments to all parties.
  • Prioritize de-escalatory measures instead of taking retaliatory actions that would beget more violence.
  • Take steps to end the occupation of all peoples in the Middle East and build a lasting, durable peace in the region.

What you can do to call for peace

Colleen Moore is the Director of Peace With Justice at the General Board of Church and Society.