Justin Welby speaks out on Gaza

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a statement on Wednesday that called for the end to the violence in Gaza and encouraging churches to pray for and offer support to the victims.

The archbishop’s website reported that Welby has been engaged in private communications with people in Israel and decided to come forward to publicly denounce the “destructive cycle of violence” playing out in the country. He highlighted the conflict’s emotional nature and urged both sides to seek a peaceful solution.

“You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence. While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.”

Welby also called out what he views as the “breaches of age old customs for the conduct of war” perpetrated on all sides of the conflict and noted the impact of the daily stress on reinforcing cycles of violence.

“Populations condemned to hopelessness or living under fear will be violent,” Welby stated. “Such actions create more conflict, more deaths and will in the end lead to an even greater disaster than the one being faced today.”

As someone with ample experience in peace building and conflict resolution in the UK, Nigeria, and elsewhere, Welby said that the current trajectory in Gaza is untenable.

“For all sides to persist with their current strategy,” Welby stated, “be it threatening security by the indiscriminate firing of rockets at civilian areas or aerial bombing which increasingly fails to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, is self-defeating.”

The archbishop also recognized that acts of violence are not confined to the Middle East. He commented on the increase of anti-Semitic crimes in Britain that some attribute to the escalating tension in Gaza. Only through building interfaith relationships, Welby stated, will the world begin to establish peace.

“While it is acceptable to question and even disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, the spike in violence and abuse against Jewish communities here in the UK is simply unacceptable. We must not allow such hostility to disrupt the good relations we cherish among people of all faiths. Rather we must look at ways at working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace.”