FSPC and Bishops’ Conference hope for an end to violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip

Gottfried Locher and Norbert Brunner appeal to the conflicting parties in the Gaza Strip and Israel to live up to their responsibility for the civilian population and to halt the resurgence of violence.

The presidents of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference and the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches, Norbert Brunner and Gottfried Locher, appeal to the responsible parties of the resurgent Gaza conflict to end their mutual acts of violence.

According to media reports, approximately 1000 rockets have been fired at Israel since the beginning of the conflict. In the subsequent Israeli air offensive, roughly 100 Palestinians were killed and 700 people were injured. Bishop Brunner and President Locher denounce this violence. “Both sides claim the right of self-defense. However, this claim ends where civilians are used, endangered, hurt and killed. Moreover, violence and killing in the name of religion can never be tolerated.”

The presidents are convinced that two concessions are inevitable: the Palestinian side must acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and the Israeli government must end its blockade politics. “There is no other way to calm the situation. Both sides owe this to their children, women and men,” President Locher and Bishop Brunner emphasize.

The renewed escalation of the conflict threatens to further destabilize the entire Middle East. “We pray that the conflicting parties will live up to their responsibility. It is absolutely vital that they take up the offer of mediation extended by Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. A new war must be prevented by all means,” Bishop Brunner and President Locher state, adding that international humanitarian law must be observed during the ongoing conflict.

The Swiss national churches have been involved in efforts to bring peace to the Middle East for many years. Under the patronage of the FSPC, Swiss volunteers are actively participating in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program (EAPPI), an organization devoted to protect the civil population in Palestine and Israel. Together with Catholic believers, the Swiss bishops support numerous solidarity missions in the Holy Land, e.g. the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem. Pilgrimages, in which the bishops themselves participate whenever possible, are additional signs of solidarity with the people in these regions and a silent appeal for peace.