Category: Pondering Peace

Taking Action for Gaza

The war in Gaza between the Israeli military and Hamas goes on, now for over four months.  The human toll of this war continues to mount – over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed including 12,000 children, and over 68,000 injured.  Forced to flee Israeli bombing and military action over and over again, more than 1.3 million Palestinians are squeezed into the southernmost city of Rafah, with no where else to go to escape. In desperate need of food, water, shelter, and medical care, the people now face further devastation. Prime Minister Netanyahu is threatening military action in Rafah, and the bombing has already begun. Many view what is happening as genocide.

It is heartbreaking and horrifying to read the news each day if one allows it to sink in to a place of empathy.  This war is a humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinians of Gaza.  And this war is not good for the people of Israel either.  Over 200,000 people living near the borders in Israel have been displaced, and all the hostages have not been freed.  The war has increased the anger of surrounding Arab countries such that Israel is less secure in the long run.  It is causing untold suffering and devastation, but is not likely to lead to peace.  What is needed is a permanent ceasefire and a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

But what can one do in the face of such massive violence that is supported by one’s own government?  The United States has supplied 80-90% of the weapons being used by the Israeli military.  Our tax dollars are being used for this endeavor.  If we do nothing, are we not complicit?

As those committed to Jesus’ way of peace, I believe we must use the privilege of our citizenship to make our concerns known and call for a permanent ceasefire, massive humanitarian aid to Gaza, a diplomatic solution, and an end to supplying weapons for Israel to carry on this war. We can do this as individuals by writing and calling our Senators and Representatives, joining our individual efforts to thousands of others. We can work with others to raise the importance of this issue so as to influence congressional members to call for a ceasefire.  They can be urged to cosponsor House Resolution 786  or to make their own statements calling for a ceasefire and diplomatic solution.  You can see which senators and representatives have done so here.  We can send messages to President Biden here.

In the third district of Kansas, in which Central Seminary resides, the Rev. Dr. Jessica Williams has been heading up an effort to build congressional support for a ceasefire.  Jessica has been a pastor, is currently working for the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, and serves as supplemental faculty for Central Seminary.  In December, she wrote the following open letter to our House Representative and asked faith leaders in our congressional district to sign it. So far 57 faith leaders in our district have signed it. Among the signatories are leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic communities.


Dear Representative Davids,

            As faith leaders serving communities in Kansas’s 3rd District we have watched the ongoing violence in Palestine with horror. Our faiths teach us of the dignity and value of every human life.

            We mourn for all the lives lost in the Middle East, including the nearly 20,000  Palestinians who have been killed, including more than 10,000 children, in the military response that followed the devastation of October 7th.  The indiscriminate murder of Palestinian civilians is an atrocity funded by U.S. tax dollars.

            As faith leaders we preach and teach of the sanctity of life.  We cannot in good conscience be silent while Israel levels Gaza’s neighborhoods and bombs hospitals with impunity.  There is no morality in the deaths of children in NICUs starved of power and the thousands of children left to be fished, limb by limb, from the rubble.  We understand the atrocities experienced now as a continuation of the violence of  occupation and the resulting dispossession, poverty, starvation, and dislocation of Palestinians.

            As our representative in Congress, we call on you to act with your conscience. It’s your moral obligation to do everything in your power to put an end to this violence, to demand a permanent ceasefire and for all hostages and the thousands of Palestinians held in administrative detention to be returned.

            Anything short of permanent ceasefire is unacceptable.  A temporary pause in the killing and displacement of millions of Palestinians is insufficient.  We urge you to make a public, unequivocal statement in support of a permanent ceasefire or join your  colleagues in sponsoring Rep. Cori Bush’s Ceasefire Now Resolution (H. Res 786) – which is based directly on demands by American Palestinians from Gaza.

            We urge you to take action now.  Millions of lives depend on it.

Jessica persistently worked to get an appointment with our Representative to explain to her our concerns and ask her to call for a ceasefire.  Finally an appointment was obtained, and five of us representing these faith communities went to her office, only to find that she was not available after all.  Instead we met with her district staff. We learned later that she has indicated to other groups her unwillingness to do this.  And so as faith leaders we met again this past week to figure out how to move forward.

It is disappointing that in the face of so great a humanitarian crisis there is an unwillingness to do anything.  However, it also must be acknowledged that every congressional person faces pressure to act in multiple ways, that those with greatest influence and money may get more of an audience, that in our current political environment calling for a ceasefire in some districts may greatly damage one’s political career, and that other issues may be deemed to be of such great significance that political capital needs to be focused there.  I do appreciate Representative Davids’s active support for some other important issues, such as action to address climate change.  And yet, in the face of what appears to be genocide, should not our congressional leaders respond with concern?

We can also use our influence and right to assemble peacefully to raise awareness of the importance of this issue in our communities.  Some faith leaders will be writing op-eds.  We are planning an Interfaith Assembly for Gaza to which faith communities and political leaders will be invited.  We can support public actions and rallies by our presence.  In our area, the Palestinian group Al-Hadaf KC and Jewish Voice for Peace – Kansas City often work together and with university student groups to offer such events, such as the one offered this past weekend.  One particularly powerful action previously done to try to bring the death toll of children in Gaza to public attention is highlighted on this video.  We can amplify these various efforts by using social media to share them when regular media sources ignore them.

Such efforts may seem small and unlikely to make a difference, but every movement to stop war takes many efforts on multiple fronts over time to create awareness, momentum, and motivation to change course.  Protesting our country’s support of this war and doing what we can is part of rejecting our nation’s complicity and taking a stand for justice and peace for the part of our human family in Gaza.  As we do so, we are adding our voice to other voices of faith across this country and world.  The National Council of Churches in partnership with many religious groups has recently engaged in a Pilgrimage for Peace calling for a ceasefire, an end to the war, halting weapon funding to Israel, and increasing humanitarian aid to Palestine.  This past week leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church called for not only a ceasefire but also an end to financial aid to Israel, seeing the ongoing Israeli military campaign as amounting to “mass genocide.” Sojourners Magazine has been asking Christians to sign a petition to President Biden that calls for peacemaking, beginning with a ceasefire.  And Kairos Palestine, the most extensive Palestinian Christian ecumenical non-violent movement, calls for urgent international intervention to stop the genocide in Rafah, for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and for insisting on a diplomatic solution. As we work together with people of faith and conscience, let us lift up urgent prayers of lament and hope, trusting God to work through our small efforts and those of many others in the quest for peace.

Rev. Ruth Rosell, Ph.D.

Director of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence
Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology Emerita
Central Seminary, Shawnee, KS

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Other Pondering Peace blog articles on Gaza:

“The Way of Violence and the Path to Peace”

“Unto Us a Child is Born”

“An Alternative to War”