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Statement from the Archbishop of York on the Gaza Conflict

Friday 16th January 2009

"I have received letters, calls and e-mails asking me why I haven't spoken out in the situation in Gaza. The answer is that up until now I have not known what to say. The incomprehensible suffering of the innocent leaves one in a place of profound sorrow and silence in the face of such suffering.

"It is essential at such times that we engage in prayer even if we feel in the light of such suffering that our prayers are going straight into a concrete bucket, unanswered and unheard. But suffering ultimately calls for a response and that response is prayer.

"When people ask where is God in all of this, all I can say is that God is there with them, being violated and blasphemed.

"This afternoon I am holding a special service of Lament at the chapel in Bishopthorpe Palace. Friday is a holy day of prayer for Muslims and the beginning of the Sabbath for Jews. Today it is a day when God weeps for the acts of the children of Abraham in Gaza and Israel.

"Sending rockets into Israel will not achieve those aims of Hamas for an end to illegal settlements and a return to the pre-1967 land agreements. The state of Israel will not achieve an end to the smuggling of arms and armed resistance through the bombing of Gaza from land, sea and air. As Martin Luther King has said: "To respond to violence with violence increases darkness on a night devoid of stars".

"Peace will only be found in the mutual recognition that they are both children of Abraham, the father of faith for Christian, Jew and Muslim alike, who calls each of us to the patient adventure of faith with our hearts always looking to that Holy City whose builder and maker is God.

"It is high time that all people in the region recognised the right of the State of Israel to exist and the need for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Therefore the international community must redouble its efforts to bring about this reality and a lasting peace. We have all been guilty to ignore the danger signs over the last eight years.

"In recent weeks as a Christian I have been reflecting on those Hebrew scriptures that we read during Christmas which longs for the day when "there will be no more weeping and they shall not hurt or destroy on all of God's holy mountain". Peace will flower in Israel and Palestine when love and justice pervade the environment.

May this Sabbath and holy day be a reminder of that call to peace as we lament together over the brokenness and suffering that we have seen daily unfolding in Gaza and the rockets hitting and injuring people in Israel."

A saying from The Prophet, used in daily prayer by Muslims

Oh God, you are Peace.

From you comes Peace,

to you Returns Peace.

Revive us with a salutation of Peace,

and lead us to your abode of Peace.

From Jewish Morning Prayer:

May the name of the Lord be blessed now and for ever.

May there be abundant peace from heaven,

and a happy life for us and for all Israel.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

May he who makes peace in his high places grant (in his mercy)

peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

A prayer after Saint Francis of Assisi adapted by John Sentamu.

Lord, make me a channel of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me be your love

Where there is injury, let me be your healing and pardon

Where there is despair, let me be your hope

Where there is darkness, let me be your light

Where there is sadness, let me be your consolation and joy

Help me to love with all my heart;

To understand as I have been understood;

To forgive as I have been forgiven;

To give and to serve without counting the cost,

Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Amen.


We have become orphans, fatherless;

     our mothers are like widows.

We must pay for the water we drink;

     The wood we get must be bought.

With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven.

     we are weary, we are given no rest.

We get our bread at the peril of our lives,

The old men have left the city gate,

     the young men their music.

The joy of our hearts has ceased;

     our dancing has been turned to mourning.

The crown has fallen from our head;

     woe to us, for we have sinned!

Because of this our hearts are sick,

But you, O Lord, reign forever;

     your throne endures to all generations.

Why have you forgotten us completely?

     Why have you forsaken us these many days?

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;

     renew our days as of old –

unless you have utterly rejected us,

     and are angry with us beyond measure.

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