EPF PIN member Linda Gaither sets the context for EPF PIN’s work at General Convention 2018.
Our presiding bishop, +++Michael Curry, heard the cries of the people during his Holy Week visit to the Diocese of Jerusalem:
“We have heard the cries of Palestinian Christians throughout the land, who strive only for equal treatment and kindness and justice for all regardless of race or religion…We have heard the cries of people in Palestine, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, Israeli youth whose longings are the same, to breathe free, safe and secure.”
“We have heard the cries of people in Gaza, where the church here provides an oasis in a hospital, and oasis in the midst of a war zone through a hospital built on the teachings and spirit of Jesus, where healing and care is made available to all regardless of religion, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of politics.”
Since Good Friday, which coincided with the eve of Passover, the whole world has heard these cries and witnessed the agony of a desperate people, trapped in a humanitarian crisis, marching near Gaza’s border. The hospitals of Gaza have indeed functioned as an oasis in a war zone. We watch in disbelief as Israeli soldiers let loose a hail of sniper fire using live ammunition and rubber bullets from behind bulldozed earth berms, while tear gas is fired from the skies by drones. The targets are unarmed, thousands of men, women and children, many of them refugees who fled their homes in 1948 in the violence of Israel’s founding. As a result of the Good Friday assault, 16 people were murdered, 805 were wounded by live ammunition, 425 suffered tear gas inhalation and 154 were hit by rubber bullets. As May begins and the weekly demonstrations continue, the death toll has risen to 40 with over 5500 Palestinians wounded. Not one Israeli has been wounded. As Human Rights Watch reminds us, using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet imminent threat to life.
At General Convention in Austin, the Palestine/Israel Network of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship will include among its resolutions a call to hold Israel accountable under international law for its lethal targeting of unarmed demonstrators protesting at the border of what has been called the world’s largest open-air concentration camp. The resolution also calls on Congress and the US Secretary of State to reinstate the full funding commitment of the US government to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, while at the same time demanding that Israel lift its decades-long siege of Gaza by land, sea and air.
The Episcopal Church has taken a strong first step toward demanding Israeli accountability to international law by joining with 15 Christian denominations and agencies in a call to end the Israeli military’s use of deadly force against unarmed demonstrators. The April 12 Statement included among its recommended actions an investigation into the deaths and injuries resulting from the use of live ammunition against civilians.
EPF/PIN believes that our resolution on Gaza, along with other resolutions to be submitted on behalf of a just peace, offers the next step forward in our church’s response to the unfolding tragedy in Palestine/Israel. May the bishops and deputies gathered in General Convention hear and respond, with our Presiding Bishop, to the cries of the people in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem and wherever the fundamental human rights of Palestinians are ignored or suppressed. Our church has prayed, our church has studied; now it is time to act.