By Minaz Kerawala, Communications and Public Relations Advisor
Last week, we issued a press release, announcing an allocation of $150,000 to Caritas Jerusalem and inviting Canadians to give generously to our joint Gaza Humanitarian Emergency appeal with the Humanitarian Coalition, donations to which are being matched dollar for dollar by the Government of Canada until November 12. The press release also called for an immediate ceasefire.
Now, with growing international consensus for this demand among humanitarian agencies and moral leaders, including Pope Francis, we are also asking the Government of Canada to call for a ceasefire to protect women, men and children in Gaza. We have joined others in the KAIROS Canada network in issuing an ecumenical statement that reiterates this call.
As members and supporters of Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada, you can help encourage the government to act by writing to your MPs to make this demand. Download our sample letter to get started.
Gaza: escalating violence, deadlier by the day
On October 7, Hamas killed thousands of innocent civilians and took hundreds of hostages in Israel. Agreeing with Pope Francis that such extremism would “fuel hatred, violence and revenge, and only cause suffering,” we joined him in asking “that the hostages be released immediately.”
Retaliations by Israeli forces have since created what the Holy Father has described as a “serious humanitarian situation in Gaza.” The UN reports nearly 1.5 million people displaced and some 1,400 dead in Israel and over 9,000 dead in Gaza, including more than 3,700 children. Over 22,900 people have been injured and thousands are missing, presumed dead in Gaza.
Among the victims was our colleague Viola Al ‘Amash, a 26-year-old Caritas Jerusalem employee who was killed along with several members of her family, including little children, when a missile struck a church hall in which hundreds of civilians were sheltering.
With continuing hostilities, depleting stocks of food and vital supplies and the approach of winter, the death toll will keep rising.
A voice of conscience and courage
Well before the conflict had turned this deadly, His Eminence Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, had offered himself in exchange for Israeli children taken hostage by Hamas.
More recently, the cardinal evinced even more profound moral courage in a letter to his diocese. Driven by conscience, he wrote about Hamas’s actions, “There is no reason for such an atrocity. Yes, we have a duty to state this and to denounce it.”
Asserting that “the life of every human person has equal dignity before God,” Cardinal Pizzaballa described the Israeli government’s deadly bombing and the suffering and deprivation it is inflicting on over two million people in Gaza as “tragedies that cannot be understood and which we have a duty to denounce and condemn unreservedly.” He added, “It is time to stop this war, this senseless violence.”
The Patriarch’s prescription was clear: “It is only by ending decades of occupation and its tragic consequences, as well as giving a clear and secure national perspective to the Palestinian people that a serious peace process can begin. Unless this problem is solved at its root, there will never be the stability we all hope for.”
A time for reaching out
What UN secretary general António Guterres has called “this moment of grave and immediate danger” is a time for us Canadians to reach out. To reach out to comfort our neighbours who are worried about their families in the conflict zone. To reach out to our children to soothe and reassure them. But above all, to reach out to our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land with prayers, goodwill, advocacy and generosity.
For, as Cardinal Pizzaballa put it, “The suffering of the innocent before God has a precious and redemptive value because it is united with the redemptive suffering of Christ. May their suffering bring peace ever closer!”