Ottawa Office Roundup: Spotlight on Gaza

The MCC Ottawa Office blog is trying something new, with a semi-regular News Roundup! We want to take the opportunity to share news stories, reports and resources from various sources around the web, with the goal of providing more background information and context on the countries and themes where MCC and our partners are working. We also want to speak to the role and responsibilities of the Canadian government, highlight what MCC is doing, and outline how you can get involved! The articles are drawn from a variety of sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of MCC.

Globe and Mail photo

A Palestinian child plays in an impoverished area of the Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 29, 2018. MAHMUD HAMS/GETTY IMAGES

For this first Roundup we want to highlight the deteriorating situation in Gaza, primarily because our partners have reached out, speaking to the growing urgency and desperation of the situation and the people of Gaza. More than one million people in Gaza rely on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. The blockade that Israel imposed in 2007 has devastated the economy and brought unspeakable hardship for Palestinians. Now, as recent funding cuts from UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestine, take hold—life for many is going from bad to worse.

A broad look at the everyday realities

Israel-Palestinian conflict: Life in the Gaza Strip, BBC, May 2018

In May 2018 the world was watching as numbers of causalities and deaths in Gaza peaked – this BBC article took the opportunity to outline the significant daily challenges within Gaza, most directly connected to the blockade, including: freedom of movement, the economy, schools on the verge of closure, insufficient access to essential medicines, food and water, and extremely limited electricity.

Israel tightens Gaza blockade, civilians bear the brunt, Oxfam, July 2018

In mid-2018, Israel tightened the blockade on Gaza even further, exacerbating the above-mentioned concerns, and it is the civilians of Gaza that are bearing the biggest brunt. In this report, Oxfam and others outline the realities and impacts for the people of Gaza, it provides a list of recommended actions for the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority, as well as the international community, of which most seek to address root causes of the situation, with a long-term view.

Long-Lasting impacts and the youth of Gaza

Gaza economy in crisis: World Bank report warns that it’s in ‘free fall’, Middle East Eye, via World Bank, September 2018

The recent report from the World Bank talks about a crippling and unsustainable economy in ‘free fall’, stifled by a more than 10-year blockade, as well as the impacts for Gaza’s youth, where the unemployment rate has risen to 70% despite high levels of post-secondary education.

Generation of children in Gaza on the brink of a mental health crisis, new research shows, Save the Children, June 2018

In Gaza, a generation of children is growing up knowing little else but conflict: a blockade, regular drone attacks and air strikes, the loss of home, or worse, the loss of family and friends. As the humanitarian situation worsens, reports like this one continue to draw attention to the long-lasting impacts of trauma and violence on children.

How to move forward: Addressing structural issues, and not just humanitarian issues

Cash-Strapped Gaza and an Economy in Collapse Put Palestinian Basic Needs at Risk, World Bank, September 2018

Although humanitarian and development support for Gaza is helping to meet urgent immediate needs, there is a need to address some of the root causes and structural factors. This report from the World Bank outlines the limits of humanitarian aid to bring real and sustainable change and growth to Gaza and outlines the push to move beyond merely sustaining life and the conditions as they exist today, to see long-lasting impacts and movement for the better.

Canada’s role and responsibilities, and moving forward

Canada pledges $50-million for vulnerable Palestinians, Globe and Mail, July 2018

In July, the Canadian government pledged $50-million to support vulnerable Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. This announcement followed the Minister of International Development visiting the region, earlier in the month.

Canada gives $50-million to UN Palestinian refugee agency that U.S. calls flawed, Globe and Mail, October 2018

In order to help fill the urgent funding gap as a result of cuts to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which represents Palestinian refugees, Canada and other countries have pledged significant additional support for the situation. Of the $50-million pledged, $38-million will support programs in Gaza.

Why Canadian aid won’t really help Palestinian entrepreneurs, The Conversation, August 2018

As the previous section highlighted, aid is not enough. Humanitarian and development support will help sustain life, while continuing to uphold the current structures, which are stifling growth and long-term improvements in the lives and living conditions of the people of Gaza. While the increases in Canadian humanitarian aid are a positive step, they fall short of addressing the structures that sustain the humanitarian crisis.

MCC invites you to take action: Contact your Member of Parliament!

End the suffering of Gaza, MCC Ottawa Campaign, updated, Oct 2018

We, alongside our partners are calling for continued humanitarian support. But beyond this support, in order to build a peaceful and sustainable future for Gaza, we are calling for the end to the Israeli over a decade-long blockade, which is at the root of so much of the situation in Gaza. In 2018, as the blockade tightens, the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

ACT Today: Urge your MP to show compassion for Gaza! Ask him or her to:

  • Insist to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister on continued humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza, but, more critically, that Canada support an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
  • Support policies in keeping with Canada’s official commitment to promote the human rights of all people, including Palestinians and Israelis.

For more information and resources on the context in Palestine and Israel, and the work on MCC’s partners, see MCC’s A Cry for Home Campaign.

Rebekah Sears is the MCC Ottawa Office’s Policy Analyst

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Step onto your land

Our guest writer this week is Paul Esau, a participant in our Ottawa Office annual student seminar, held February 15-17 in Ottawa. The theme of the seminar this year was “Palestine and Israel: Let no walls divide.” Paul is from Abbotsford, BC. He is a Ph.D. student in history at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and his research focuses on Canadian arms control and disarmament initiatives in the 1990s. He visited Palestine and Israel in 2009.

On the first day of the MCC Ottawa Office student seminar, MPs and government officials explained to us all the reasons why Canada will not pressure Israel to end the military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza.

On the second day, we spread forest green blankets on the floor of Knox Presbyterian Church.

“Remove your shoes,” MCC staff Joanna Hiebert Bergen and Jon Nofziger instructed us, “and step onto your land.”

I’ve never been comfortable with ‘heart’ exercises, or practices that are meant to provide an emotional experience alongside an intellectual one. The policy talks had brought me to the edge of my seat, and left me wanting more. Yet when Joanna and Jon invited us onto the blanket to begin what is known as the Palestine Land Exercise, my first thought was that someone had misspelled “Jerico” on the label under my toes. I worked hard to repress the need to share that observation.

bginning of Palestine Land Exercise

Palestine Land Exercise | photo by Nadia Garcia

The exercise began with an invitation for participants to step onto the blankets and find a spot somewhere in historic Palestine between Lebanon and Sinai, Jordan and the Mediterranean. As events unfolded – the 1948 War, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the continuing occupation – the blankets were slowly folded up until most participants were crowded together on tiny patches of green in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Of the 30 conference attendees who had begun as symbolic Palestinians in the exercise, only a handful had avoided expulsion as refugees, death, or incarceration.

The chronology of events is interspersed by the stories of historical and contemporary Palestinians that are read out by participants in the exercise. Some cried as they listened to the stories of displacement and struggle. Others, like the three Syrian women who recently came to Canada as refugees, seemed distinctly haunted.

It was meant to be a powerful, emotional experience, and for many it was. Yet I was tired and bloated, with a gnawing ache in my lower back.

My role, I knew, was to participate as fully as I was able, and to keep my mouth shut. The church, like the proverbial village, needs all kinds, and therefore an MCC conference, like a Sunday service, must appeal to many different constituencies. In fact, I think that this recognition of diversity is one of the strengths of MCC more generally; it has made balancing head and heart, hard policy, grassroots advocacy and traditional theology, into a well-practiced art. It is one of the reasons that MCC is so respected in Ottawa, and why our speakers list raised impressed eyebrows among political insiders.

I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the heart’s role in geopolitics recently, especially as I’ve become more aware of my great blessing in growing up in a sleepy Canadian city among an undivided family of almost-middle class standing. I was reminded of this as I watched one of the Syrian participants, Basma, quietly take a friend’s keffiyeh (the black and white head scarf associated with Palestinian nationalism) and wrap it around her own head in a gesture of solidarity. As a PhD student, I’ve spent much of my life in the classroom where debates around the Middle East are abstract and esoteric. Basma reminded me that for some people the Middle East is home.

Despite these real consequences for people from the region, it has recently become fashionable to avoid conversations about the Israel Palestine conflict, to consign the topic to the closet of social faux pas alongside the abortion debate or (until recently) gun control. Many feel that the debate has become so polarizing, the situation so intractable, that no good can come from such discussions.

There is no easy solution to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Yet that is no reason to assume that we have no responsibility for what is happening right now on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. The military occupation is illegal under our current international laws, it is unjust, and it is a barrier to shalom. Therefore, it is our responsibility as Christians to engage in non-violent resistance to the power of the sword held over the Palestinian people. There is a way for both Jews and Arab Palestinians to live together in the Holy Land, and Christians must continue to struggle towards that frail but beautiful possibility.

group photo

MCC Ottawa Office 2018 student seminar participants on steps of Parliament Hill | photo by Nadia Garcia

I am proud that MCC is willing to instigate conversations as part of its theological mandate to seek peace and justice around the world. I am proud to see the influence that the small advocacy office has in Ottawa, and to hear the passion and wisdom of my fellow students during the seminar. I am not always a ‘heart’ person, yet there are moments when I am fiercely proud to call myself Mennonite.

For all my doubts, I am glad I stepped onto that green blanket. I am glad that MCC has both the sensitivity to listen carefully, and the courage to speak truth to power. This conference forced me to engage both my heart and my head, and reminded me that throughout Jesus’ ministry he did the same.

A Cry for Home — Why now?

Everyone needs a home — where families are safe and secure, where their basic needs are met, where they can come and go freely, and where they can imagine a future of justice and peace. But that is not the reality for Palestinians — or even for some Israelis.

This month MCC in Canada launches a special campaign on Palestine and Israel called “A Cry for Home.”

A Cry for Home logoIt is a multi-year initiative inviting MCC supporters to learn about, engage with and advocate for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. It is a call to respond to the cry of Palestinians and Israelis for a safe, secure, just and peaceful home.

Why this campaign at this time? After all, hasn’t MCC been addressing issues related to Palestine and Israel for years? There are several reasons we are embarking on this initiative now:

  • Because of the cry of our partners. We are responding because of the urgent plea of our partners — especially Palestinian Christian partners — for solidarity and for advocacy. MCC partners have for years been urging a bolder stance in calling for an end to occupation, oppression and injustice. Indeed, in the past six months, Palestinian Christian organizations have urged “costly solidarity” on the part of the global Christian church, insisting, “This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians.”
  • Because of the increasingly desperate situation of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The theft of land and the building of illegal settlements for Israeli Jews in the occupied West Bank continues apace, despite insistence from the international community that such activity stop. The demolition of Palestinian homes, schools and orchards goes on with impunity. The situation in Gaza is catastrophic, with the UN declaring that it will be unlivable by 2020 and perhaps even sooner. In the meantime, Palestinians and others who resist are increasingly bullied, silenced, imprisoned.
  • Because we care also about Israeli Jews. While the Palestinians suffer most in the current reality, we know that Israeli Jews are also harmed by the words, walls, and weapons that divide them from Palestinians. Like Palestinians, they long for homes and a homeland that is safe and secure. Like Palestinians, they suffer violence. Yet many of them live with a deep sense of fear and foreboding. We acknowledge that for many people, the fear is rooted in Christian persecution of Jews over the centuries. Yet, like many Israeli peacemakers, we believe that a peaceful future for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians will result from an end to the occupation, from the practice of justice, and from respect for international law.housesand_farm_0
  • Because of MCC’s long history. MCC has been active in Palestine and Israel since 1949, when the creation of the State of Israel made hundreds of thousands of Palestinians refugees in their own home. Our history and continuous presence, as well as partnership with Palestinians (since 1949) and with Israelis (since 1967), has given us insights into the ongoing conflict, as well as a special burden to help in supporting a resolution to the conflict. Throughout that history, partners have urged MCC not only to meet immediate needs with relief assistance and community development support, but to engage in advocacy to address the root causes of the current reality.
  • Because the topic is challenging. Over many decades, MCC’s work in Palestine and Israel — particularly, our advocacy for a just peace — has generated a diversity of opinions from our supporters and constituents. While many of MCC’s supporters resonate with our work and approach, some of them disagree with us when we critique the policies of the State of Israel and its actions toward Palestinians. With this campaign, we want to engage with these diverse perspectives — exploring questions together, dialoguing constructively, and building understanding.
  • Last, but definitely not least, because of our faith. Our Christian faith — and our commitment to Jesus — compels us to stand with the oppressed, lovingly speak truth to power, and actively seek a just peace in the land where Jesus walked. Jesus himself denounced injustice and proclaimed good news of liberation to those living under a yoke of oppression; we can do no less. More than that, our faith gives us hope that transformation and reconciliation are truly possible. We are inspired by the vision of the Holy Land as a place where all people — Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Christians and Muslims — live with peace, justice and security, a land where “everyone sits under their own vine and fig tree and no one makes them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

Please join us in responding to the cry of Palestinians and Israelis for home.
Visit our campaign page for information on how to learn, engage, advocate, pray and give. And please sign up for regular campaign updates.

 By Esther Epp-Tiessen, Public Engagement Coordinator for the MCC Ottawa Office

Hope & Sumud – 50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation

By Seth Malone, Peace Program Coordinator, MCC Palestine and Israel

Today—June 5, 2017—marks the 50th year of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Under international law, military occupation is always meant to be temporary. This is because the longer an occupation lasts, the more likely it is that respect for human rights and dignity are eroded. This is certainly the case in Palestine and Israel.

Magad Amgad

Magad Amgad from al-Najd Developmental Forum, an MCC partner organization in Gaza, walks through a strawberry field. This MCC-funded agricultural project aims to provide greater food security for the people of Gaza who have been subjected to a 10-year blockade imposed by Israel.

Day in and day out, Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) partners work tirelessly to help their communities grow and flourish. Our partners come up against the worst aspects of the Israeli military occupation but continue to work for justice and peace all the same. From rehabilitating homes destroyed in war, to providing counseling services to women whose husbands have been killed, to organizing against the construction of the separation barrier that devastates every community that it snakes through, our partners are active and hopeful despite all odds.

In Arabic, this “steadfastness” or “perseverance” is called sumud. Sumud, in the face of occupation, has become an indispensable part of Palestinian life and the work of MCC’s partners.

Nowar Educational Centre

Children at the Nowar Educational Center of MCC partner Culture and Free Thought Association are making materials for their community advocacy campaign for traffic safety, January 19, 2017

Despite five decades of brutal military occupation, our partners and the people of Palestine continue to embody sumud. This is because—despite all evidence to the contrary—they believe there is hope. In 2009 the Palestinian Christian churches issued a statement called “A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” Known popularly as the Kairos Palestine document, it describes hope in this way:

“Hope within us means first and foremost our faith in God and secondly our expectation, despite everything, for a better future. Thirdly, it means not chasing after illusions – we realize that release is not close at hand. Hope is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us. From this vision derives the strength to be steadfast, remain firm and work to change the reality in which we find ourselves. Hope means not giving in to evil but rather standing up to it and continuing to resist it. We see nothing in the present or future except ruin and destruction. We see the upper hand of the strong, the growing orientation towards racist separation and the imposition of laws that deny our existence and our dignity. We see confusion and division in the Palestinian position. If, despite all this, we do resist this reality today and work hard, perhaps the destruction that looms on the horizon may not come upon us.”

This is not a passive hope. This is a hope which calls all of us to action—to act in solidarity with those who suffer. It calls us to responsibility. In the face of such injustice and violence, we are called to act justly and peaceably in the hope that God can take our humble actions, multiply them and make them bear fruit. We are called to remain steadfast—to embody sumud—by never giving up on our responsibility to God and our neighbour.

Such a hope and such a steadfastness is terrifying for those bent on propping up such a terrible occupation. The resistance, however small it may be, will always be the quiet voice that bears witness to truth, and tells the world that this unjust and evil occupation must end.

Omar Haramy

Omar Haramy leads a group through Sabeel’s Contemporary Way of the Cross, which takes participants to locations representing the various forms of Palestinian suffering. In the background are soldiers preparing to discharge tear gas and rubber bullets at children who were throwing rocks in Shoufat Refugee Camp in Jerusalem. Sabeel, the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, is an MCC partner organization that seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians in Palestine and Israel and works for justice, peace and reconciliation by using nonviolence.

So let us have the courage to join this resistance. Let us call for justice and peace. Let us call for an end to this occupation.

A note to Canadians:  Please send a message to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, letting her know that 50 years of occupation is enough.

Support a future for Gaza!

“And this is how we see our future — to be killed by the conflict, to be killed by the closure (blockade), or to be killed by despair.”

These words, spoken by a 15-year-old boy, describe how the desperate situation in Gaza is destroying the hopes and dreams of Gazan youth. The boy shared this message with Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, and Ki-moon shared it with the UN Security Council on July 12.

Gaza 2015 childre

This Gazan family (names withheld for security reasons) received MCC material resources after the 2014 war. MCC photo/Jesse Bergen

Through the months of July and August 2014, a war between Hamas and Israel resulted in massive death and destruction, primarily for Gazans. More than 2100 Palestinians, including 495 children, were killed, as well as 66 Israeli soldiers and 7 civilians. It was the third such war in six years. Two years after the most recent war, Gaza continues to suffer:

  • Of 11,000 homes completely destroyed in 2014, only 10 percent have been rebuilt; 75,000 people are still without a home;[*]
  • 250 schools were damaged or destroyed and many have not been repaired; 400 schools currently run double shifts as a result;
  • Severe electricity and fuel shortages lead to rolling blackouts that can last hours; this seriously hampers pumping systems for water and sanitation;
  • 80 percent of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance for basic necessities;
  • Unemployment levels are estimated to be 40 percent or more – among the highest in the world;
  • The psychological trauma of successive wars and the stress caused by unemployment have resulted in increased levels of domestic violence and divorce; for children, the impacts are nightmares, bed-wetting, difficulty concentrating and even completing school.
Gaza 2015

Many Gazans continue to live in makeshift shelters like this one. MCC photo/Jesse Bergen

A major reason for the lack of progress in Gaza’s reconstruction is because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza – a blockade on land, sea and air that has been in place for nearly a decade. The blockade has crippled the Gazan economy and isolated the people of Gaza politically and socially. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that “the closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts.” People frequently refer to Gaza as an open air prison with 1.8 million prisoners.

Israel says that the blockade is needed to limit Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli cities and towns, and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. But critics say that the blockade actually fuels the rocket attacks and increases insecurity for Israelis; moreover, the blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment and a violation of international law.

A specific impediment to Gaza’s recovery is the restrictions placed by the blockade on the entry of basic building materials such as wood, cement, steel bars. The lifting of these restrictions would go a long way to rebuilding homes, even while a full end to the blockade is critical to a long-term solution for Gaza and for Israel.

MCC has joined the Association of International Aid Agencies in calling for action that will lift the Israeli blockade and specifically the restrictions on building materials.  Please join us by viewing this video and signing this petition.

Children constitute half the population of Gaza. Many of them have lived their entire life under the blockade. Please support a future for them.

Open Gaza

* MCC’s response to the 2014 crisis included emergency food assistance, the distribution of essential non-food items, and repair of 70 houses that had been damaged but not completely destroyed.

By Esther Epp-Tiessen, Public Engagement Coordinator for the Ottawa Office.

Defining “liveable” — a glimpse at Gaza

This week’s guest writer is Anna Johnson, Connecting Peoples Coordinator for MCC Palestine. Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, she studied International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington DC.

During my visit to Gaza in January, the words of a 2012 UN report questioning whether Gaza will be ‘a liveable place’ by 2020 echoed in my mind. The report, which looked at current and projected economic circumstances, population levels, and access to water, education, and health, concluded that “there will be virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory.” Looking out the car window and seeing so many children and families, I wondered, “What does a place need in order to be ‘liveable’?”

Amna Abu Halima and her daughters, along with MCC Palestine worker Jessy Hampton. (Photo credit Anna Johnson)

Anam Abu Halima and her daughters, along with MCC Palestine worker Jessy Hampton. (Photo by Jesse Bergen)

One morning, we visited families who had received assistance from MCC’s partnership with the Al Najd Development Forum. These families had been displaced during the summer bombing and had not been able to return to their homes due to severe structural damage. The home of Anam and Mahmud Abu Halima lost an entire wall and their family lived in a UN school and then a small tent for seven months before being able to move back into their home after Al Najd’s volunteers replaced the wall, windows, and ceiling. Anam and Mahmud’s eight children crowded into the small room with a new wall and window to express their gratitude for being able to return home, when so many in Gaza continue to be displaced. “Now we feel we are human beings,” Anam told me.

Again I returned to my questions: What is ‘liveable’? Is Gaza ‘liveable’ now, for people like Anam and her family? Was it ‘liveable’ during the 50 days of bombardment last summer?

Based solely on statistics, one might be quick to declare an emphatic “NO” to these questions. We see on the news that hundreds of thousands of children continue to experience the side effects of trauma. We know that international donors have failed to come through on their pledged $5.4 billion for rebuilding Gaza and that thousands of people remain displaced. If anything, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is exponentially worse than it was when the UN report was published three years ago.

Gaza 1

Al Najd Development Forum director, Khaled Abu Sharekh, joins Ali, Mohammed, and Fadi (last name unavailable) under a blanket received in an MCC material resource shipment. The boys and their six other brothers were displaced during the 2014 summer bombardment of Gaza. Though they had not had electricity for three days when this picture was taken, they were grateful to be back in their home, thanks to Al Najd volunteers who rehabilitated it. (MCC photo by Anna Johnson)

Yet, during my two days visiting MCC’s partners in Gaza City and Khan Younis, I was struck again and again by the vivacity and tenacity of life in Gaza. Turns out, some of the funniest and most compassionate people I’ve met live in Gaza. They stubbornly refuse to give in to despair. They do with their three to six hours of electricity each day what many of us fail to do with our limitless supplies of power, water, and other resources. Through their resilience, they embody sumud – Arabic for “steadfastness.”

The question to ask ourselves is not whether Gaza will be ‘liveable’ in 2020; 1.8 million people live in Gaza today, and by 2020 it is expected that 2.13 million people will reside in Gaza’s tiny strip. We owe it to these people, then, to ask ourselves how we can make Gaza ‘liveable’ by 2020. International funds are needed to rebuild Gaza, but even more so, international pressure is needed to end the 7-year blockade on Gaza (which restricts the flow of people and trade, and prevents the delivery of needed medicines, fuel, and building materials, among other things). The UN report states that “herculean” efforts are needed to ensure that Gaza’s residents are able to “exercise and enjoy the full range of human rights to which they are entitled.”

Just as MCC’s partners in Gaza continue to serve their communities with grace and compassion, we must be steadfast in our resolve to see the people of Gaza freed from the devastating constrictions under which they are forced to live.

A prayer for peace in the Middle East

This prayer was written by Steve Plenert, peace program coordinator for MCC Manitoba.  Through the month of August, MCC Manitoba has organized weekly gatherings for staff and constituents to pray for peace with justice in the Middle East.  This prayer was written for use on August 29, 2014.

Volunteers wearing MCC and Al Najd Development Forum vests deliver mattresses to families who opened their homes to other Gazans displaced by the Israel-Hamas conflict. MCC provided $35,000 of bedding and related supplies that were distributed through partner organization Al Najd in late July. (Photo courtesy of Al Najd Development Forum)

Volunteers wearing MCC and Al Najd Development Forum vests deliver mattresses to families who opened their homes to other Gazans displaced by the Israel-Hamas conflict. MCC provided $35,000 of bedding and related supplies that were distributed through partner organization Al Najd in late July. (Photo courtesy of Al Najd Development Forum)

Lord God,

We pray to you for peace in this day.  We give you thanks for life, for love, for hope and for goodness.  And we give you thanks for peace.  Sometimes it feels that peace is elusive both within our hearts and in the world.  We ask that we might know and understand your peace and your way of peace.  We pray that our world – your world – would experience true peace in the ways incarnated in Christ and in ways that reflect your coming Kingdom. Forgive our doubts, our faintness of heart, and our complicity with structures of violence. Guide us and all the earth into the ways of peace.

O God, we give you thanks for the ceasefire in Gaza. We grieve the deaths of Palestinian civilians, especially children, even while we mourn the loss of all human life and are grateful that the bombs have stopped.**  We pray that the blockade of Gaza will end. We pray, O God, that against all odds and predictions, this ceasefire would lead to a lasting truce with the conditions for true justice and reconciliation for Israelis and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Jews.  We pray that as children of Abraham we would all learn to see each other as a blessing to all nations.

Our hearts remain troubled with the plight of the Yazidi people of Iraq. We pray for mercy, kindness and justice for them and for all. We pray that the Yazidi would experience alleviation of their distress. O God, the fruits of your Spirit are needed in every region, in every corner of this world.  We pray that we would live by these fruits and be known by them also.

O Lord, for many of us these situations are distant and do not impact our day to day lives.  For those living in many parts of the Middle East the impacts are much more tangible.

For those who have lost homes – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have lost family members – we pray to you, O God.
For those whose lives and potential have been lost to their communities – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have killed in the name of their religion – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have killed in the name of the state – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have ordered killings – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have killed because they saw no alternative – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have sought to bring peace in the Middle East – we pray to you, O God.
For those who have labored to heal those injured and traumatized – we pray to you, O God.
For those who provide humanitarian assistance to those in need — we pray to you, O God
For those who negotiate ceasefires – we pray to you, O God.
For those whose lives are indirectly impacted by these conflicts – we pray to you O God.

We pray for the healing of the nations, for the healing of our own souls and for the healing of people in the Middle East.  Lord have mercy on your children.  Listen to your children praying.  Amen.

 

** As of August 28, 2014, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the  Occupied Palestinian Territory  noted the following: “Palestinian fatality toll is 2,104, of whom 1,462 have been identified as civilians, including 495 children, according to preliminary assessments… As of August 20,  10,224 Palestinians, including 3,106 children and 1,970 women and 368 elderly, have been injured. The cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 69, of whom at least four were civilians, including one child, in addition to one foreign national killed in Israel.”