Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,
As we enter into the sacred season of Advent, our hearts are heavy at the continuing devastation, trauma and grief in the Holy Land. We call upon all our people and congregations to pray fervently, and to participate in a special Jerusalem Christmas Offering along with opportunities for advocacy and learning. Details on each follow below.
In a recent statement on the war between Israel and Hamas, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued this call:
"Today I raise my voice for love because more than 10,000 people have died in Gaza, including more than 4,000 children. … The violence is horrific, and the geopolitics are complex, but my call to love is simple: Stop the killing. Stop all of it. Stop it today. … Staying quiet in this moment would be a stain upon our souls and would deepen our complicity … Every human child of God – Palestinian and Israeli – deserves safety and security. We need to stop the killing. Today."
At our own Diocesan Convention last month, the Bishop’s Annual Address included this reflection:
"I do not know the solution to the intractable hostilities of the Middle East. I don’t think you do either. But I am certain we must reject the easy dualities and reductionist platitudes of blame and blamelessness; of good and bad; of the primacy of ancient history versus recent history. Our task is to condemn indiscriminate violence and cruelty wherever we see it; to extend compassionate care wherever we can support it; to join calls for an immediate ceasefire; to demand humanitarian action on the part of our own government and others; and to pray fervently for people of all faiths who are acting as agents of peace with justice."
In the past few weeks the situation has continued to worsen and our posture remains the same. We condemn unreservedly the use in Gaza of innocent persons as a human shield, while we condemn likewise the use of that reality as a legitimizing pretext for the death of thousands of those same innocents. With our presiding bishop we cry, “Stop the killing!”
At this writing, a small glimmer of hope has been provided by a “pause” in active warfare, the release of some hostages and an increase in the still-limited humanitarian aid convoys entering Gaza. We call for our own U.S. leaders to advocate for this pause to be extended by all sides into a full ceasefire, that all may recommit to a process which can lead to a lasting peace with justice.
Our Christian partners in the Middle East are led with courage and hope by the Most Rev. Hosam Naoum, Archbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. As Episcopalians we center the voice of Archbishop Hosam and his fellow Christian leaders not because we view their lives as more valuable than any others, but because we have long and deep personal relationships with them that enable us to move beyond polarized and theoretical political analyses to get to the current human reality of dwelling in the crossfire. Indeed, the Christian voice in Israel and Palestine is often the least audible as their numbers continue to dwindle, even while their institutions reach into multifaith communities and serve as beacons of hope for reconciliation. The Ahli Hospital in Gaza, twice struck by recent rocket fire, is but one such institution. The oldest hospital in Gaza and its only Christian hospital, Ahli continues to provide urgent medical care, including pediatric care, to people of all faiths.
In this moment, Archbishop Hosam and Christian leaders have called for our support and response with them: to grieve the trauma and terror seizing the region, praying and advocating for renewed peace and genuine justice; to understand more deeply the context of the crisis; and to respond with generosity to those ministering in the midst of war.
As your bishops, we call for all congregations and individuals to mark this Advent season of hope and expectation by engagement in each of these ways. Specific opportunities and resources for such engagement are below.
We extend to you our blessing in this season when we prepare to hail anew the Prince of Peace.
Faithfully and fondly,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Carol J.W.T. Gallagher