Newsline Special for January 9, 2009

“For the Lord…will having compassion on his suffering ones” (Isaiah 49:13b).


1) Brethren call for cease fire between Israel and Gaza.

2) On Earth Peace-sponsored delegation is in Israel and Palestine.

3) Church World Service is poised to deliver aid in Gaza.

4) WCC says Christians worldwide are acting on the Gaza crisis.


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1) Brethren call for cease fire in Gaza, help contribute aid.

The Church of the Brethren has joined in the worldwide calls for a cease-fire and peace between Israel and Gaza, which are being made by many Christian denominations and ecumenical organizations. Brethren Disaster Ministries has requested an $8,000 grant contributing to the work of CWS in Gaza, from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund. CWS has announced it is offering comprehensive humanitarian aid for Gaza (see story below).

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has helped initiate a request from the National Council of Churches (NCC) for an audience with Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Noffsinger said he also hopes for a similar meeting between leaders of the NCC and leadership of the Palestinians in Gaza. He said that the NCC leaders will urge both sides to a cease-fire and cessation of violence, if their request for the meetings are granted.

The Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace both have issued calls for a cease-fire in Gaza and are encouraging Brethren to help take action to urge governments and parties to the conflict to cease hostilities. The World Council of Churches (WCC) and Church World Service (CWS) also have been among those issuing statements on the Gaza crisis in recent days. The Church of the Brethren is a member denomination of all three ecumenical organizations–the NCC, WCC, and CWS.

In an e-mail message to supporters, On Earth Peace executive director Bob Gross called for action to help end the war in Gaza. “Please don’t stand by while the suffering continues in Gaza,” he wrote. Gross listed a variety of action opportunities including learning more about the situation from suggested sources such as the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and the Institute for Middle East Understanding, writing a letter to the editor, writing to representatives in the US Congress, making a donation to the work of On Earth Peace in the Middle East, and sending a personal message to people involved in the conflict to be carried by a delegation that is currently visiting in Israel and Palestine (see story below).

The On Earth Peace e-mail also included an analysis of the conflict 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 delegation’s blog. Contact communications coordinator Gimbiya Kettering at to request a full copy of the e-mail from Bob Gross on the Gaza crisis.

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. An “Action Alert” 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 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 Brethren Witness/Washington Office requested. For a copy of the Action Alert contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at or 800-785-3246.

2) On Earth Peace-sponsored delegation is in Israel and Palestine.

A delegation currently visiting Israel and Palestine is sponsored jointly by On Earth Peace and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). This is the fourth such delegation to the Middle East from On Earth Peace and CPT, with delegation trips scheduled in January for the past few years.

The 12-member delegation left for Israel and Palestine on Jan. 6, and plans to be there through Jan. 19. It is led by Rick Polhamus, a member of Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren and a former member of the fulltime CPT team in Hebron. The group also includes Church of the Brethren members Jerry Bowen of Troy, Ohio, and Stacey Carmichael of South Bend, Ind.

Brethren in the United States have an opportunity to send personal messages to people involved in the Gaza conflict, to be delivered by the delegation. “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 Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace. “You can also send messages of hope and comfort to encourage those who are suffering.” E-mail messages sent to will be delivered by the delegation.

The delegation also is posting a blog on their experiences. Go to for the blog. Contact communications coordinator Gimbiya Kettering at to request a full copy of the e-mail from Bob Gross on the Gaza crisis.

3) Brethren grant to contribute to Church World Service aid in Gaza.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has requested an $8,000 grant to contribute to the work of Church World Service (CWS) in Gaza, to come from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund. “As the active armed conflict continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, CWS is working with a number of partners to position humanitarian relief supplies for Palestinian refugees,” said Brethren Disaster Ministries executive director Roy Winter in the grant request.

“The humanitarian situation is currently dire with limited movement of refugees being allowed,” the request continued. “This grant will support a broad ecumenical effort to provide emergency food, medicine, and blankets. An expanded appeal is expected when Gaza is safe for relief agencies.”

Through the Action by Churches Together coalition, CWS has participated in sending 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. However, news reports yesterday said that UN aid convoys and humanitarian efforts by the International Red Cross have been attacked, and at least two aid workers have been killed.

According to a release today from the World Council of Churches, “The International Committee of the Red Cross says the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) is failing to fulfill its obligation under international law to help wounded civilians in Gaza. A United Nations relief agency suspended aid operations in Gaza after some of their facilities were targeted and two of their local staff killed by the IDF. Church-related facilities are not spared, as three DanChurchAid-supported mobile clinics bombed by the IDF show,” the WCC reported.

CWS partners additionally 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.

Some two thirds of the people now suffering in Gaza are refugees, CWS said. The organization today sent a letter to the governments of Israel and Egypt, urging them to allow civilians who want to leave the bloodshed to do so safely, and underscoring refugees’ right to protection and the need to open borders.

4) WCC says Christians worldwide are acting on the Gaza crisis.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has made repeated calls for a cease-fire and peace between Israel and Gaza. This week on Jan. 7, it 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.

In a press release today, the WCC reported that “individuals, groups, churches, and councils of churches from Kenya to Sweden to the United States to Australia are carrying out hundreds of advocacy actions involving Christians concerned about the Gaza crisis, especially the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and the need for a just and lasting peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

The WCC has received reports of church-related advocacy in some 20 countries, go to for a list including statements, public demonstrations, and letter campaigns addressed to government officials and parliament members. The advocacy work is “usually accompanied by vigils and prayer services and collection of funds to support humanitarian relief work,” the release said.

Goals for Christian advocacy actions include an immediate cease-fire that ends violence against civilians on both sides of the border, free access for humanitarian aid, lifting of the blockade on Gaza, and internationally sponsored negotiations under the framework of international law as the basis for peace, the WCC said.

Go to for the the WCC statements and actions related to Gaza, including for the full text of general secretary Kobia’s letter and for a WCC central committee minute on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, dating back to Feb. 2008.


Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for Jan. 14, 2009. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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