Dear Archbishop Justin: Why are you silent on the suffering in Gaza?
Today we issued a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury questioning his silence over the last 11 days on the disproportionate violence against civilians in Palestine, and the lack of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people. You can read our letter, and share in this action here.
In the last 11 days we have witnessed once again an unprecedented level of violence towards civilians in the Holy Land.
Whilst people have been suffering in Israel and in the West Bank too, the lives of those in Gaza have once again been disproportionally affected. 219 Palestinians, including 63 children and 35 women (3 of whom were pregnant) have lost their lives. Tens of thousands have been displaced and made homeless once more. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, including 6 hospitals and 44 schools. This is unacceptable.
We welcome the news of the ceasefire, which we hope will hold and protect all civilians from more violence. But unless the root causes are addressed – namely Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, its siege of Gaza, and its discrimination against non-Jews inside the State of Israel, we will be back here, lamenting the next war very soon.
During the last 11 days, Churches around the world have been issuing statements of support and solidarity, and calling for the structural injustices in the Holy Land to be addressed. In the UK, the Methodists, United Reform Church, Catholics, Quakers and others have all spoken out, yet the Church of England has remained silent. In the letter below, written by the trustees of Sabeel-Kairos UK, we challenge that silence, and we ask those of you that are members of the Church of England to do so with us.
Letter to Archbishop Justin Welby:
Dear Archbishop Justin,
We were encouraged to see that you had retweeted the statement made by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem concerning the recent violence in the Holy Land, and the statement issued by the Most Revd Hosam Naoum. In the latter statement, Archbishop Hosam stated;
“Finally, we call upon the United Nations and the international community to work with all parties to seriously address the underlying injustices and grievances that have led to this latest unrest in a recurring cycle of violence, working for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis that incorporates a viable Two-State Solution.”
We assume that by retweeting these statements, you are in agreement with Archbishop Hosam’s analysis, yet we find it extremely disappointing that the Church of England has not issued its own statement regarding the violence in the Holy Land, and are specifically concerned about your silence on the following issues:
- The disproportionate use of violence against civilians in Gaza, which has led to over 200 deaths (including 63 children at the time of writing), the displacement of over 75,000 people and the complete or partial destruction of 44 schools and 6 hospitals, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli violation of the sacred Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, all of which are severe violations of international law and potential crimes against humanity.
- Solidarity with the Christian Palestinian population in both Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, who have lived under a brutal Israeli military rule for 54 years and are denied their basic human rights every day.
- Your support for a full investigation into alleged war crimes in Israel and Palestine by the International Criminal Court, which would bring the first measures of accountability and justice to the situation for many years.
- Your lack of support for alternative Jewish voices in the UK that have routinely rejected the actions of the state of Israel, and do not feel that the Board of Deputies of British Jews represents them at all.
We noted your request for prayer “for peace with justice for all”, and would ask you to elaborate on your understanding of what ‘peace with justice for all’ means for Palestinian Christians and Muslims. On the 14th May Kairos Palestine issued a Call to Church Leaders Worldwide for Solidarity and Action. You can read that call here: https://www.kairospalestine.ps/images/kairos-palestine-call-for-world-solidarity.pdf
We respectfully ask when you might show ‘solidarity’ and what specific ‘actions’ you will lead the Church of England in taking – such as to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement (the largest non-violent movement for justice, peace, accountability and equal rights in Israel/Palestine) and work of organisations like EAPPI to bring about justice, peace and reconciliation for Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel-Palestine.
We therefore ask when you will respond with a statement or call to action similar to those issued by many other Churches in the UK, including the Catholic Bishop’s Conference, the Methodist Church, The Church of Scotland, the United Reformed Church and the Quakers.
The Catholic Bishops Conference statement clearly calls for an end to the occupation and discrimination that Palestinians face, addressing directly the ‘underlying injustices and grievances’ referred to by Bishop Hosam.
“As people of peace, we pray for an end to the airstrikes, shooting, missile attacks, and communal violence engulfing the Holy Land.
Pope Francis reminds us that: “Every act of violence committed against a human being is a wound in humanity’s flesh; every violent death diminishes us as people.”
The local churches have clearly stated that peace requires justice. We echo their calls for an end to the occupation, discrimination and human rights violations that propagate violent attacks on civilians, standing in the way of a stable and peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis.
We reaffirm our commitment to the internationally recognised status of Jerusalem, the Status Quo of its holy sites, and the equal rights of Jews, Christians and Muslims in the city.
At this critical time let us also offer our support to those humanitarian organisations working tirelessly to save lives and alleviate suffering.”
We call on you as the leader of the Church of England not to remain silent in the face of such injustice, but instead to boldly proclaim the truth, standing in solidarity with the Church in Palestine, and using your substantial influence to help seek a just, viable and lasting peace in the Holy Land for all that call it home.
We eagerly await your reply,
Karen Fairfax-Cholmeley, Chair, Sabeel-Kairos UK.
(On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Sabeel-Kairos UK)
 Na’Amod, British Jews Against the Occupation challenge the Board of Deputies on the occupation: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=2222859144489317&ref=watch_permalink
Amplify this message
If you would like to help us spread this message within the Church of England, then please do download our letter, and send it on to the Archbishop with your endorsement. You can also share it with your local Bishop, and any other contacts you wish to in the Church of England.
Here are the contact details for the Archbishop: You can send him a message using the contact form on this page, or write to him at Lambeth Palace:
And here is our letter for you to download or print:
We will update you here with any responses that we receive from the Archbishop or his office directly.
Reply received from the Archbishop’s office – May 2021.
Thank you for your recent email to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop is grateful for each of the many emails and letters he receives, but owing to the volume of correspondence is unable to respond personally; therefore, your letter has been passed to me to reply on his behalf.
Thank you for taking the time to write and for sharing your comments and concerns with regard to recent developments in Israel/Palestine. I wish to assure you that I have made a note of your comments and that they will be communicated to those advising the Archbishop on these matters.
It is worth noting that Archbishop Justin has indeed made a series of interventions on this issue, both historically and in recent weeks. Both Archbishop Justin and the Archbishop of York have retweeted and therefore affirmed statements from others from the Church of England, the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners. This included a call from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem expressing their concern about the encroachment into al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police and the developments in Sheikh Jarrah and Archbishop Stephen’s call for restraint on all sides, a commitment to “peace with justice”, and prayer for all those committed to the path of justice and nonviolence.
Both Archbishops offered their support for Archbishop Hosam of Jerusalem at the occasion of his installation and reiterated the call for “peace with justice”. This was also reinforced by the Bishop of Southwark, who represented Archbishop Justin at this installation. You can read his full statement here: https://southwark.anglican.org/news-events/news/latest-news/a-statement-from-the-rt-revd-christopher-chessun-bishop-of-southwark-in-jerusalem/
A constant refrain, as you will see, is the call for “peace with justice”, following the lead of our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Israel/Palestine. This is no mere injunction to cessation of violence, but the expression of a long-held and express commitment to a sustainable future for Palestinians and the correction of structural injustice in the Holy Land. Such a commitment, for example, was evidenced in a meeting that Archbishop Justin had with the Israeli Ambassador in March of this year where he brought to her attention a number of specific issues affecting Palestinians, and retweeted this meeting with the call for a sustainable future for Palestinians and a two-state solution.
In engaging with issues of such complexity, the Church of England will always be taking its first prompts from the Anglican leadership in Israel/Palestine, and be sensitive to language and any rhetoric that might suggest that advocacy in this instance is a zero-sum game between solidarity with Palestinians, and solidarity with our Jewish neighbours.
Thank you again for taking the time to write, and please be assured of our prayers and best wishes.
Correspondence Manager to the Archbishop of Canterbury
We thank the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office for their reply, and will be writing our response to the above shortly, which we will share here.