19 January 2024: Bishop Christopher calls for ceasefire ‘to end appalling suffering’ in Gaza
The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, has spoken of the dire situation facing Christians and others following a pastoral visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
24 December: Statement from the Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination
The Bishops of the Holy Land Coordination were profoundly shocked and distressed at the killing by snipers on 16th December of two Christian women sheltering in the compound of the Holy Family church, Gaza. Messages were sent immediately to the Patriarch, His Eminence Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and to the Parish Priest, Fr Gabriel Romanelli… Read the full statement here.
13 December: Statement from the House of Bishops
A statement following the House of Bishops meeting of December 12, 2023:
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ this Advent, we are dismayed that the place of our saviour’s birth is once again wracked by violence, death and destruction.
We grieve that innocent children have been disproportionately affected by this conflict.
Of the 1,300 people killed in the abhorrent terrorist attacks of Hamas on 7 October, 33 were children. Of the 250 hostages taken, 34 were children. In Israel’s exercising its right to self-defence, more than 18,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children. Thousands more have been injured.
We re-affirm our position of 31 October 2023 that there is no equivalence between the atrocities of Hamas against Israeli civilians, and the right and duty of Israel to defend itself. We also want to be clear that we do not believe that the devastating loss of civilian life and humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza can be morally justified.
The nature and scale of death and destruction we are witnessing across the region is horrific and is inconsistent with the obligations of international humanitarian law as affirmed most recently by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2712 (15 November 2023).
This war has claimed too many lives and destroyed too many homes. The extension of battle to Southern Gaza will only compound the existing humanitarian catastrophe. We appeal for the bloodshed and destruction to stop. An alternative strategy needs to be found that closes down on attacks on Israel from Gaza and ends the violence and blockade undertaken by Israel.
The recent truce (24-30 November 2023) provided a glimmer of hope amidst so much darkness. We were encouraged as hostage families were reunited, civilians found respite from bombardment, and some of the sick and injured found life-saving care and some supplies reached those most in need.
Intensified diplomatic efforts should seek to secure the release of all remaining hostages, the protection of civilians and full humanitarian access to Gaza, alongside steps to establish a reinvigorated political track to address the overarching conflict.
Israel’s security cannot be achieved by continuing with a system of occupation that denies millions of Palestinians their rights and freedoms. The ongoing settler violence in the West Bank, which has resulted in the death to date of 8 Palestinians including one child, is a matter of grave concern as is the fact that since 7 October over 250 Palestinians, including over 60 children have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. There has been much damage to Palestinian homes, farms and schools by settlers without the necessary restraint and prosecution by the Israeli authorities.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is more than another regional conflict but one with both international and domestic resonances. The current war in Gaza risks sowing the seeds of the next several generations of vengeance and violence unless it is resolved equitably now. For this reason, we call on the British Government to appoint a dedicated Minister or Peace Envoy for the Middle East to work with other nations to focus diplomatic efforts and to signal a long term commitment to support any future peace process.
We ask that the Government, as with the US Administration, act to deny visas for travel to any one deemed to be committing acts of violence or undermining peace and security in the West Bank, particularly against Palestinians.
In our communities there is no place for either antisemitism or Islamophobia. It is unacceptable that children fear going to school because they will be spat at, shouted at and hated for no other reason than that they are Muslim or Jewish. We should not impute to children here that for which they cannot be held responsible in Israel-Palestine.
We condemn the fresh growth of antisemitism in Europe, a shameful feature of our Western Christian history that needs to be constantly rebuked. In schools, universities, on streets and in places of work and worship, antisemitism has been the root of so much racism. Once one group is allowed to be attacked, merely for religion, race or heritage it seems to open the gates of hell to all other forms of hatred.
We condemn all those hateful voices stoking prejudice against anyone, for any reason and call on the church to walk alongside those from different communities. Let us never stand silently by, but at whatever risk stand with those who suffer such hatreds.
But more than anything we ask that this Advent, parishes, chaplaincies and all places of worship pray for peace, for wisdom, for justice, and for hope as we give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ and God coming to dwell with us amid our pain and joy. As each household or gathering comes together at Christmas, give thanks for what we have and pray for the Holy Land and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live there.
We also warmly encourage support for the Archbishops’ appeal for the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza.
Bishop Christopher was interviewed about this statement by Martin Stanford on LBC News – you can listen to the interview here.
13 December: Signs of Hope for the Holy Lands as Christmas approaches
The al Ahli Anglican Hospital was the last hospital to cease functioning in Northern Gaza, and now it has become the first to reopen. After closing two weeks ago amidst heavy bombardment, al-Ahli Anglican Hospital is once again open to serve the hundreds of wounded still remaining in Gaza City. Find out more about this – and other signs of hope for the peoples of the Holy Lands here.
During this season, Bishop Christopher asks that you and your church please consider whether you may be able to make a financial donation to support the Archbishops’ joint appeal for the Ahli Hospital in Gaza, and the ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem – perhaps through donations at your crib or carol services. Contributions can be made online here.
Archbishop Hosam Naoum has also shared these Advent reflections with us, which are written by clergy of the Diocese of Jerusalem.
Christian charity Friends of the Holy Land has also released ‘Hear Angels Cry’ – a special song for Christmas. Endorsed by His Holiness Pope Francis, funds raised by the song will support work with those suffering in Gaza and the West Bank this Christmas.
13 November 2023: Archbishop in Jerusalem addresses General Synod
The Archbishop in Jerusalem has addressed members of the Church of England’s General Synod, describing the ‘difficult and controversial’ task of seeking peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. On the first day of its November 2023 group of sessions, the Most Revd Hosam Naoum spoke to the Synod by video from Jerusalem, asking members of the Synod to hold both Palestinians and Israelis in their prayers following an ‘eruption of violence’ since the attacks of October 7.
The text and video of Archbishop Hosam’s full address to the General Synod is available online here.
13 November 2023: Praying for Israel & Gaza
In November 2023, a new group, chaired by Bishop Martin, was formed to take forward the relationship between the Diocese of Southwark and Diocese of Jerusalem building on the Jerusalem-Southwark Covenant Agreement.
The group is small and at this stage and is designed simply to respond to the current crisis in Israel/Palestine. It will form more fully and more clearly identify its priorities in due course. The group’s current members are Bishop Martin Gainsborough, Revd Peter Welby, Revd Canon Wendy Robins and The Venerable Moira Astin.
In a highly charged political context, it can sometimes be difficult for those who lead public prayers in our churches to know how best to do this. We have put together a few pointers which may be useful to them. These include prayer points given to us mainly by our partners there. Do, please, share them with your intercessors if you think it might be helpful. This page will be updated to reflect the evolving prayer needs of the situation.
We would also encourage people to reach out to synagogues and mosques in their areas to build and strengthen relationships.
In addition, Bishop Christopher has asked that parishes consider giving a percentage of their collections from Advent/Christmas services to the Archbishops of Jerusalem and Canterbury’s joint appeal for the work of the Diocese of Jersualem and the Middle East which has been affected by the devastating war in Israel/Palestine. Individual donations can be made via the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association (JMECA) cafdonate.cafonline.org/24666
If you would like to donate as a church, please do so by bank transfer to;
Sort code: 18-00-02
Account number: 03283534
If you wish to earmark your donation for a particular appeal, please add details in the reference section.
31 October 2023Statement from the Church of England’s House of Bishops
An appeal for Peace
“They shall not learn war any more” (Isaiah 2.4)
Isaiah’s vision of peace was spoken to a nation in confusion and social discord, divided and fearful. It was a vision of a peace that, though not yet realised, was always to be sought in faith through living in obedient righteousness and generous community in society. It is repeated numerous times in both the Old Testament and in the New as the ultimate destiny of creation, a state of peace, righteousness and harmony. As Christians we believe that the fulfilment of this vision and the gift of peace, individually and collectively, is found in Jesus Christ.
The War in Israel and Gaza
As Bishops of the Church of England we condemn the terrorist actions of Hamas on 7th October. Hamas has killed civilians without mercy, defiled their bodies, treated the most vulnerable brutally and taken hostages. Its continued indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli targets puts civilian structures and individuals at risk. All this is built on its denial of the right of Israel to exist. Hamas has oppressed the people it was originally elected to serve and has put them in harm’s way by using them as human shields. Its actions are a violation of international law.
We must also reflect on the actions that Israel has taken in response. We affirm absolutely Israel’s right to self-defence. We wholly support the duty of the Government of Israel to protect its citizens. We echo the concerns raised by President Biden about understandable anger and deep trauma not determining strategy and actions. Israel’s right to self-defence needs to be exercised in adherence to the key principles of international humanitarian law.
The huge number of civilians killed in three weeks of bombardment, principally in Gaza City, and the immense suffering of a people herded south with no escape, are a humanitarian catastrophe. Even defined evacuation routes have been hit. Places of sanctuary and gathering have been bombed. Aid workers have been killed and wounded in large numbers. Critical services like healthcare, water, and electricity have been cut, while the military siege of Gaza has meant that no adequate humanitarian response has been possible.
Also gravely concerning are the reports of rising numbers of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by inhabitants of settlements which are illegal under international law. In mixed communities in Israel, where people have generally lived peacefully side by side, Israeli Arabs now find themselves subject to abuse, harassment and discrimination.
The United Kingdom, Islamophobia and antisemitism
In this country we have seen heightened tensions and threats to social cohesion. We are grateful for and stand with all those faith and community leaders who have made efforts at local and national level to maintain friendships and relationships across some of the sharpening political divides. We also condemn the rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks.
Appeals by the Bishops of the Church of England
In the UK we call for intercommunity groups to maintain the closest possible contact. We pledge ourselves to pray for and take public actions in support of our fellow citizens of Jewish or Islamic faith. We recognise that within the church, too, we must acknowledge our own differences on this matter with care and generosity. The way individuals and communities act here and now could shape and influence what happens next. So, while we must condemn utterly those who foster fear and hatred in our communities, we must also galvanise and support those who are modelling something different and seeking the way of peace.
Recognising the troubled history, we nevertheless cling to the longstanding vision of a peaceful region where the peoples of Israel and Palestine can live in security, justice, peace and harmony in their own lands, we therefore appeal:
- For Hamas to release all hostages unconditionally and unharmed.
- For immediate humanitarian pauses that will enable the wounded and the most vulnerable to be evacuated under ICRC or UN supervision, holding out hope for a ceasefire in the longer term.
- For safe areas to be established across Gaza with communications, food, water and medical support, under international supervision.
- For the Israeli Government to protect the population of the Occupied Territories and arrest anyone threatening them, without fear or favour.
- For all parties to this conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law and to take all necessary steps to minimise harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.
We unite ourselves with the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Hosam Naoum, and Christian leaders in the Holy Land in calling for sustained and faithful prayer by all Christians for peace and justice.
17 October 2023
As the conflict in the Holy Land continues to escalate, Christians around the world are being urged to mark Tuesday 17 October as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for all people affected by the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
This is in response to a statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Archbishop Hosam Naoum. The leading ecumenical group in Jerusalem issued the call after an emergency meeting “for prayer and consultation over the grave humanitarian crisis that has befallen all of us”.
They said: “our beloved Holy Land has changed dramatically over the past week. We are witnessing a new cycle of violence with an unjustifiable attack against all civilians. Tensions continue to rise and more innocent and vulnerable people are paying the ultimate price as the dramatic level and death and destruction in Gaza clearly show.”
The leaders say that the order to evacuate the north of Gaza – the displacement of 1.1 million people to southern Gaza – “will only deepen an already disastrous humanitarian catastrophe.”
They say: “Gaza’s entire population is being deprived of electricity, water, fuel supplies, food and medicine. According to UN sources, 423,000 people have already been displaced because of the destruction of their homes. Many civilians in Gaza have said to us that there are no realistic ways in which they can evacuate to safety in any direction.
“We call upon the State of Israel, with the support of the International Community, to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza so that the thousands of innocent victims may receive medical treatment and basic supplies. Moreover, we call upon all parties to de-escalate this war in order to save innocent lives while still serving the cause of justice.”
They add: “in support of all those who have suffered in this war and of all the families reeling from the violence, we call upon the people of our congregations and all those of goodwill around the world to observe a Day of Prayer and Fasting on Tuesday, October 17th
“There is yet time to stop the hatred”.
In a subsequent statement, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Archbishop Hosam Naoum, said: “once again we find ourselves living through hard times In the Land or the Holy One, where we are surrounded by war, violence, hatred, and destruction. Many in our region now live with great fear and uncertainty.
“Nevertheless, from Jerusalem, the City of the Resurrection, I send you all hope for the assurance of a better life: one with a brighter future, mare blessed circumstances, and freedom from bloodshed, injustice, and death.
“We condemn all acts of violence and kitting, especially of civilians and the innocent. And we advocate for a just and comprehensive peace for all living here. In order to stop the vengeful cycle of violence, we exhort everyone to exercise self-control. Since everyone loses in war, we also call for all parties to pursue peaceful, diplomatic solutions towards a just and lasting agreement for both peoples in a two-state solution. Only in this way can we all enjoy freedom, Justice, and peace.”
Archbishop Hosam, who is also the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and Vice Chair of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, added: “to this end, we pray without ceasing for justice, reconciliation, peace, and an end to hatred and war. We also pray for God to change the hearts of all leaders and decision-makers in our countries and around the world, For we are in dire need or hearts that love, show mercy, and are willing to live in unity with others – hearts that respect human dignity and choose life rather than death.
“We therefore all upon all our congregations, institutions, and parishioner families to join with our sister Churches in the Land of the Holy One In observing this coming Tuesday, October 17th as a day or Fasting and Prayer for peace, reconciliation, and an end to the war. We suggest organising prayer services and / or joining with other congregations in their services so that we can pray together with one heart and spirit.
“We entrust the countries of our Lord’s earthly home into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, asking him to have mercy on us all and to give us his peace and blessing. Amen.”
- Click to read the full statements by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, and Archbishop Hosam Naoum, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem
- Click here for a statment from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo
- Click here for a statement issued by Archbishop Justin Welby
- Find out about our partnership with our sister Diocese of Jerusalem here