07 November 2023, The Tablet

Bishops urge ‘diplomatic efforts’ for a ceasefire in Gaza

Bishops urge ‘diplomatic efforts’ for a ceasefire in Gaza

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in London and across the UK over the weekend for rallies urging an end to Israel’s attacks in Gaza.
Darren Staples/Alamy Live News

The Bishops of England and Wales have urged the UK government, to make “diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and the facilitation of humanitarian aid so that desperately needed food, water, fuel, and medical supplies can be safely delivered into Gaza”.

In a statement on the Israel and Hamas war, released on Monday, Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the bishops’ conference international affairs department, and Bishop Nicholas Hudson, chair of the Holy Land Co-ordination, said, “We will continue to add our voice to the impassioned chorus calling for justice, peace, and the cessation of the suffering that has descended upon the Holy Land.”

Cafod, Christian Aid and other agencies handed in a petition to the Foreign Office in London on 2 November, with 300,000 signatures, urging the government to support a ceasefire to prevent further loss of life in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. More humanitarian access must be granted to ease unimaginable levels of suffering, they said.

The previous day, Jewish protesters were among those calling for an end to attacks on Gaza. Gathered in the main concourse of St Pancras Station station, they carried banners saying: “Free Palestine”, “never again for anyone” and “Jews say ceasefire now!” Peaceful demonstrations also took place at Liverpool Street station in London, New Street station in Birmingham and Queen Street Station in Glasgow.

Dozens of peace vigils and marches calling for a ceasefire are planned in cities and towns around the UK this coming weekend. Organisers, such as Stop the War, have condemned as “outrageous” comments by Home Secretary Suella Braverman saying that pro-Palestinian protests are “hate marches”. Stop the War said, “The unimaginable suffering of the people of Gaza demands we raise our voices in protest.” Organisers in London have said there is no intention of marching on or near Whitehall, in order not to disrupt events at the Cenotaph.

The Community Security Trust, which helps protect the Jewish community from antisemitism, was among those to condemn the protests. In a blog, the trust said: “Another Saturday, another anti-Israel protest, another weekend in which British Jews are exposed to an outpouring of hate in our capital and across the UK – Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, the list goes on.”

Meanwhile, Pax Christi England and Wales is promoting the white poppy of the Peace Pledge Union, in order to “stand up for peace and recognise the true human cost of war”. Pax Christi asked its members to remember that military personnel are not the only victims of war: “Remember the innocent civilians, the stretcher bearers, the victims of genocide, the merchant navy, the rescue workers, the ambulance drivers, the broken families.”  

Alternative remembrance services are to be held on Sunday at Tavistock Square in London and at the Quaker Meeting house in Edinburgh, where participants will observe two minutes’ silence and white poppy wreaths will be laid in memory of all victims of war. One of the London speakers is Pat Gaffney, vice president of Pax Christi England and Wales, who will highlight ongoing work with peace campaigners in Israel and Palestine.

Friends of the Holy Land is supporting the launch of an appeal by the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, who has highlighted hardship in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. The Patriarchate is distributing food, water, medicines and other supplies.






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