Brethren Join in Calls for Cease Fire Between Israel and Gaza

Two Church of the Brethren organizations–the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace–are among Christian organizations worldwide calling for peace and a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza. The World Council of Churches (WCC) and Church World Service (CWS) have been among those issuing statements on the Gaza crisis in recent days. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of both the WCC and CWS.

On Earth Peace

In an e-mail message to supporters, On Earth Peace executive director Bob Gross called on Brethren to take action to help end the war in Gaza. “Please don’t stand by while the suffering continues in Gaza. Here is what you can do,” he wrote.

Gross listed a variety of action opportunities: learn more about the situation from several suggested sources such as the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and the Institute for Middle East Understanding, write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, write to members of the US Congress, make a donation to the work of On Earth Peace in the Middle East.

Brethren also have an opportunity to send personal messages to people involved in the conflict through the presence of a Brethren peacemaking delegation in Israel and Palestine. The 12-member delegation led by Rick Polhamus of Fletcher, Ohio, a former member of the fulltime Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, is sponsored jointly by On Earth Peace and CPT. The group left for Israel and Palestine on Jan. 6, and plan to be there through Jan. 19.

“You have an opportunity to send a personal message to decisionmakers in Israel and Gaza, which will be delivered (to the extent possible) by the delegation while they are in Israel and Palestine,” said Gross. “Send your message to . . . . You can also send messages of hope and comfort to encourage those who are suffering.”

The On Earth Peace e-mail also included an analysis of the conflict written by Manchester College professor emeritus David Waas. “The tragic conflict in Gaza is beyond understanding and every facet is open to interpretation and conflicting analysis,” Waas wrote in part. “Only one thing is clear: the conflict is deadly and a tragedy for all peoples concerned–Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, and the peoples of the world.” Go to to find the full communication from On Earth Peace and the delegation’s blog.

Brethren Witness/Washington Office

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office has urged Brethren to call the White House and their representatives in the US Congress to urge statements in support of a cease-fire. The “Action Alert” from the office highlighted information from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), of which the Church of the Brethren is a member denomination and the Brethren Witness/Washington Office is a board member.

“The Church of the Brethren has consistently stated ‘that Middle East negotiations concerning the future of the West Bank and Gaza shall be based on UN Security Council resolutions which address the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized borders’ (GB 1980),” said the Action Alert. “This statement is consistent with our long-held heritage and belief in nonviolence and supports the CMEP declaration that ‘As American Christians, we deplore the tragic loss of life of civilians caught in the escalating violence in Gaza and southern Israel and care deeply about the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering and living in fear.’”

“Pray for peace in the Middle East,” the Action Alert requested. For a copy of the Action Alert and more information about the situation in Israel and Gaza, contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office, or 800-785-3246.

Church World Service

CWS in a press release dated this week announced it is offering comprehensive humanitarian aid in Gaza. “Church World Service has set in motion an emergency response that includes humanitarian relief, protection for refugees and those displaced by the attacks, advocacy for intensified measures to create a just peace, and a public appeal for US donations to further assist people suffering through the crisis,” CWS said. “In an attempt to stop the fighting that has trapped some 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza with little to no access to food, water, or medicine, Church World Service has called its Speak Out advocacy network to action, asking people to immediately press their lawmakers in Washington to support prompt US diplomatic action to end the fighting in Gaza and renew a meaningful process toward peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis.”

The CWS statement emphasized that some two thirds of the people now suffering in Gaza are refugees and is calling on the governments of Israel and Egypt to allow civilians who want to leave the bloodshed to do so safely, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. CWS underscored refugees’ right to protection and the need to open borders to refugees in a letter dated Jan. 9 to US congressional leaders, state department officials, and Israeli and Egyptian ambassadors.

CWS together with Action by Churches Together (ACT) have sent trucks to Gaza loaded with medicine, blankets, food, and energy biscuits for children. CWS said the supplies, along with trauma therapists, will be able to enter Gaza as soon as the Israeli Army gives permission. As of Wednesday evening, Jan. 7, reports indicated that Israel would halt its bombing for a few hours each day to allow delivery of humanitarian aid. CWS partners have reported a need for supplementary feeding for 80,000 preschool children, but only one in four children has received such supplements, CWS said.

The ACT representative in Israel and Palestine, Liv Steinmoeggen, also said emergency supplies including medicine and blankets are needed at the Anglican Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. The hospital’s windows were blown out during the attacks and patients there now are exposed to cold weather.

World Council of Churches

The WCC on Jan. 7 reiterated its call for a cease-fire and appealed to Christians everywhere to pray for peace and to advocate with their governments for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia called on Christians “to inspire and encourage their leaders in the constructive work that leads beyond enmity to reconciliation.” Such a peace “must reinstate the ceasefire on both sides of the border and speed the lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza,” as well as “include respect by all authorities for international law as it applies to human rights, humanitarian aid, and protection of civilians in conflict zones,” he said. Go to for the full text of Kobia’s letter.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.


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