Tragedy Strikes in Gaza - Clergy Call for Peace
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On the evening of Tuesday, October 17, a devastating explosion rocked Gaza, shattering the serenity of a day dedicated to prayer and fasting for peace by Christian communities in the Holy Land. The blast struck the Anglican hospital, "Al Ahli," claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians, sparking outrage and condemnation worldwide.
Photo credit: hosnysalah
The shocking attack, which claimed the lives of approximately 500 people, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, unfolded within the confines of a hospital, a place considered sacrosanct and protected by international law. For over 120 years, Al Ahli Hospital has stood as a symbol of hope and healing, offering its services to the people of Gaza. It was internationally recognized as a reliable and "super partes" (neutral) institution, making the incident all the more tragic.
It is unclear who is responsible for the attack, although Israeli and government sources claim the explosion was the result of an errant rocket launched by Hamas militants. The same sources claim to have video and communication intercepts to support their claim. However, most of the world remains skeptical, and it will be some time before the truth can be definitively proven.
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, led by Bishop Hosam Naum, immediately issued a vehement condemnation of the "atrocious attack" that took place within the heart of Gaza. The hospital, he emphasized, had been a sanctuary, offering protection and care to the local population, and its targeting was an affront to humanity.
The Episcopal Church made a fervent appeal for unanimous international condemnation and called on the global community to commit to protecting civilians, ensuring that such "inhumane horrific acts" are not repeated.
On October 18, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem convened a press conference to denounce the "criminal attack" on Al Ahli Hospital. They renewed their call for justice, peace, and an end to the suffering that has befallen the people of Gaza.
During the press conference, Bishop Hosam Naum voiced the collective sentiment of the Church leaders, describing the incident as a "dreadful and devastating massacre" and a "crime against humanity." He recalled how the hospital's courtyard had been a place of peace and children playing just moments before the tragic event, leaving many questioning the reasons behind this horrific act.
Despite the hospital having received "three evacuation warnings" from the Israeli side in the preceding days, the attack went forward, causing extensive damage.
After an initial emergency evacuation, Al Ahli Hospital is back in operation, though it is grappling with a critical shortage of essential supplies, including water.
Bishop Hosam Naum stressed the unwavering commitment of the Anglican Church and other Christian institutions to keep their doors open as places of refuge, especially for the disadvantaged.
In the midst of this tragedy, Bishop Naum refrained from assigning blame to any party involved. Instead, he emphasized the urgent need for an end to the violence and the establishment of a just and lasting peace. The Church leaders stand united in their rejection of violence against civilians and innocent people on any side of the conflict.
As the world watches and reflects on this devastating event, the call for peace and justice in the region remains resounding. The leaders of the Church, along with the international community, are hopeful that this tragedy will serve as a catalyst for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accordance with U.N. resolutions and international law.
The Holy Land's churches remain united in their commitment to face challenges together and to take steps toward a brighter future.
On the horizon, another day of fasting and prayer is scheduled for October 27, following the call by Pope Francis, offering a ray of hope amid the darkness that has befallen the region.
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