Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

Peace Not Walls

ALAMEH statement on recent violence in Jerusalem and Gaza

The Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage (ALAMEH) issued a statement today regarding the situation in Palestine and Israel.

ALAMEH encourages us to learn more about the situation: “If you want to help, the first step is to become informed. Seek out Middle Eastern members of your community who have a direct connection to the Holy Land. Engage your heart and mind, and take the time to read and understand beyond the headlines. Then contact your elected
representatives and make your voice heard.”

Read the full statement here: Statement of ALAMEH concerning the recent violence in Jerusalem and Gaza

Video: Support Peace with Justice in Palestine and Israel

“Violence between Israelis and Palestinians that we have witnessed in the past couple of days is a shocking escalation of the conflict…” begins Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in this video message. “In the context of Israel and Palestine, we are seeking a positive peace: peace with justice where human dignity is upheld and human rights are protected. We have a responsibility as people of faith who see all – Christians, Jews, and Muslims – created in the image of God to love our neighbor and to work for the common good.”

Use the Action Alert at from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Peace Not Walls campaign to express your concerns and convictions to the president and lawmakers at this urgent and specific moment.

Here you can read the full video transcript: Peace in Palestine and Israel video transcript.

Letter on UNRWA and bilateral funding to West Bank and Gaza

On March 25, 2019 the ELCA joined other churches and church organizations in a letter to Congress advocating for the disbursement of funds appropriated for UNRWA and bilateral ESF assistance to the West Bank and Gaza and the inclusion of this funding in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process. Read the full letter here.

ELCJHL and ELCA messages on situation in Gaza

In a statement issued May 15, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) Bishop Sani-Ibrahim Azar condemns the killing of unarmed protesters in Gaza and asks  “people of faith around the world to join us in prayer, as well as in advocacy with your respective governments.”

Bishop Azar writes “Israel’s violent action against unarmed protestors at the Gaza border has resulted in the deaths of at least 60 human beings and more than 2000 injuries among whom are children and women. Our church, the ELCJHL, strongly condemns these killings and the unjustified and disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians, as we condemn all violence.”

In response, ELCA presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared a pastoral message about the situation in Gaza.

Bishop Eaton writes:

“Like so many here in our country and around the world, I am appalled and saddened by yesterday’s escalation of Israeli military action against protestors in Gaza. Many reports indicate that at least 60 Palestinians, including six children, have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as a result of Israel’s disproportionate use of force. Our church will support a planned medical mission from The Lutheran World Federation’s Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem to Gaza to assist the wounded.

I join Bishop Sami-Ibrahim Azar of our partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), who today said:

We mourn with the families of the dead and dying and pray for the recovery of the injured. We believe that violent actions against the Palestinian civilians will hinder the potential for peace and reconciliation efforts between Israel and Palestine and will only lead to more violence and bloodshed.

I endorse his call “upon the Israeli government to show restraint and to pursue negotiations with Palestinian leaders rather than choosing violent action against unarmed protestors.”

Yesterday’s events should also be seen in the context of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. When that decision was announced late last year, I said:

This unilateral action would not support the cause of peace and a two-state solution but rather would unnecessarily create further tensions and possible violence that would make efforts to bring them back together for talks much more difficult.

I also support the ELCJHL’s long-standing position, affirmed by Bishop Azar today, that “any final status agreement will include Jerusalem as a shared city for Jews, Christians and Muslims with free access to holy sites for all and that it must serve as capital of both Palestine and Israel.”

Always, but especially in this time of deep distress, I urge us all to join his call to “continue to pray, advocate and faithfully work towards a peaceful and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.””

Full text of ELCJHL Statement by Bishop Azar

Full text of ELCA Pastoral Message by Bishop Eaton

Right of Refugees, Right to Demonstrate Peacefully, Right to Dignity: A Statement of US Churches and Christian Agencies on Gaza

Right of Refugees, Right to Demonstrate Peacefully, Right to Dignity

A Statement of US Churches and Christian Agencies on Gaza

April 12, 2018

Friday, March 30, thousands of Palestinians participated in the first of several weeks of planned nonviolent demonstrations in Gaza near the fence with Israel. These demonstrations are expected to continue until May 15, when Palestinians mark Nakba (“catastrophe”) Day, remembering the 1948 displacement and dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians, and resulting in a Palestinian diaspora and a refugee population that today numbers over five million, including descendants. At the same time Israel will celebrate 70 years since its establishment on May 14, 1948.

More than 1.3 million of Gaza’s nearly 2 million people are refugees. The Gaza demonstrations are an assertion of Palestinian rights: the rights of refugees, the right to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, and the right to live in and with dignity, not under closed military confinement or blockade.

In the first week of demonstrations, at least 16 people were killed and, according to the International Committee for the Red Cross, approximately 1500 people required medical assistance, with approximately 800 injuries resulting from the use of live ammunition. Reports indicate that the firing came from the Israeli military in an indiscriminate manner. A group of United Nations human rights experts [1] stated, “There is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened.” The United States stood by and allowed Israel to carry out these attacks without any public criticism or challenge. Such US complicity is a continuation of the historical policy of active support for Israel’s occupation and US disregard for Palestinian rights. This complicity builds resentment and damages US national security. Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes, and to compensation for loss of property, as laid out in UN General Assembly resolution 194.

As US churches and Christian agencies, we support the Palestinian people as they courageously stand up for their rights. We have worked in our own context in the cause of justice, peace, and equality, and continue to do so even as we recognize we have too often fallen short in these efforts. We reject the use of violence by individuals, groups or states. In the wake of demonstrations that have resulted in tragedy and death, and anticipating the continuation of Palestinian protests over the coming weeks, we cannot be silent.

  • We oppose in no uncertain terms the use of violence against the protesters, especially the lethal use of weapons and force by the Israeli military, and call for it to end that practice. We support the call by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, to Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to shoot when it said, “Soldiers must not be ordered to use lethal force other than in life-threatening situations. As a rule, demonstrations inside the Gaza Strip, approaching the fence or even sabotaging it, do not constitute such situations. … [W]hen the government betrays its soldiers’ trust and arms them with unlawful orders, we are here to remind not only of the rules of morality but also of legal requirements: A patently unlawful order must not be obeyed.
  • We call for an investigation into the deaths and injuries suffered resulting from the use of force.
  • We concur with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who recently has said “Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities…. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.”
  • We call upon the United States, and particularly President Trump and members of Congress, to censure the violent and indiscriminate actions of the State of Israel in response to the demonstrations which in no way threaten the security of the state or its citizens, and to hold Israel appropriately accountable, ensuring that US aid isn’t used in ways that contravene established US and international laws, given the more than $3 billion in military aid the US disburses to Israel annually.
  • We call on the US to support the rights of refugees, including Palestinian refugees, based on international law and conventions, through the fora in which the US participates.
  • In keeping with the imperative to support refugees’ rights, we call upon the United States to resume its full funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports schools, hospitals, and other essential services for Palestinian refugees. The US recently announced that it would provide $60 million to UNRWA with no assurance of further funding for 2018. If the US provides no additional funds in 2018, this would mean an 83% funding cut over the 2017 contribution of $365 million.
  • We call upon the international community, including the US government, to insist on an end to the blockade of Gaza, which has resulted in uninhabitable conditions for the people there, including poverty and lack of sufficient access to clean water, food, medicine and medical supplies, electricity, fuel, and construction equipment. The United Nations concluded as early as 2012 [2] that Gaza was on track to be unlivable by 2020, and noted in 2017 [3] that the trends of deterioration had accelerated.

In demonstrating, Palestinians have sought to bring the world’s attention to, and to recover, their rights—rights as refugees, to demonstrate, and to live in dignity. They have been met with an immediate and tragic rejection of those rights, but as people of hope, and in the season of Easter, we believe that those rights will ultimately prevail. In this time, we pray fervently, speak clearly, and act diligently in support of peace, justice, and equality.


Alliance of Baptists

American Friends Service Committee

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

National Council of Churches

Pax Christi International

Pax Christi USA

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Reformed Church in America

The Episcopal Church

The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

United Church of Christ

PDF Version of the April 12 Gaza Statement




Israel and Hamas: Fire and Ceasefire in a New Middle East – International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group analyzes the politics and new realities of the Gaza situation post-Arab Spring:

For now, the immediate objective must be to ensure fighting truly stops and that the other commitments mentioned in the ceasefire agreement are fulfilled. There is good reason for scepticism given the history of such undertakings and the imprecision in the text itself. But new dynamics in the Middle East potentially could make this time different. Cairo has an incentive to ensure success; it has much to offer – politically, diplomatically and, together with its allies in Ankara and Doha, materially – to Hamas; and the Islamist movement would be loath to alienate Morsi’s Egypt in the way it rarely hesitated to alienate Mubarak’s. By the same token, Israel can take solace in the fact that, even when governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt proved pragmatic and eager to avoid escalation. If it does not wish this situation to change, it too will have to live up to its undertakings. Finally, the U.S. and President Obama likely acquired new credibility and leverage in Israel by virtue of the unquestioned support they offered Jerusalem; those assets can be used to ensure compliance with the ceasefire agreement.

Read full analysis.

LWF President and General Secretary urge parties to honor Gaza ceasefire

The Lutheran World Federation urges all parties to honor the Gaza ceasefire and appeals for an immediate resumption of negotiations for a broader peace.

In a statement today by LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, the LWF said that the recent conflict has cost innocent human lives and injuries on both sides. The need for a broader peace is urgent, they said.

The LWF reiterated its call for an immediate lifting of the economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, urged international efforts to relieve the suffering there and appealed to all parties to refrain from violent or provocative actions.

“The humanitarian situation facing the 1.6 million people living in Gaza is dire. Children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people have been bearing the brunt of the conflict,” the LWF leaders said.

Read the full LWF Press Release

In addition, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan issued this video message:



Pray for Gaza and Southern Israel

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Gaza and Southern Israel, as escalated violence has claimed many lives and brought devastation to a beleaguered region.  110 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have been killed, hundreds wounded and enormous devastation of infrastructure and housing in Gaza has occurred.

The Association of International Development Agencies, 44 aid agencies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel that includes The Lutheran World Federation, has called upon all sides to end the violence as a humanitarian disaster is in the making:

As the impact of days of violent escalation worsens for civilians in Gaza and in Israel, a group of 44 aid and development agencies today urged world leaders to take swift action to enforce a ceasefire in order to protect civilian lives and infrastructure and prevent another widespread humanitarian disaster in Gaza brought on by a prolonged military confrontation.

The agencies said the international community must apply immediate pressure on the government of Israel to keep the crossings to Gaza open to allow in supplies of essential humanitarian aid and push all parties to the conflict to end violence and uphold their obligations under International Law.

“World leaders cannot sit by while civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel continue to mount,” said Nishant Pandey, Oxfam Country Director.       Read their full statement.

The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has also released a statement calling for a halt to the war against Gaza and an end to the 5-year Israeli siege of Gaza which the statement  says is the underlying cause of the violence.

Meanwhile, talks of a cease-fire are rumored as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flies toward the region.

Read more about the escalation of violence and the 5-year siege of Gaza.


Some restricted aid to finally reach Palestinians, with conditions

Last year, Congress approved $147 million in aid to the Palestinians which should have been spent last year to rebuild infrastructure and generate economic growth.  Two congresswomen, however, have delayed those funds for 8 months.  Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist, comments on the recent release of some of these funds.

Congresswoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, announced on March 23 that she was ending her restriction on the funds.  The second congresswoman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, agreed recently to release her hold on part of the funds – $88 million – with some restrictions that Kuttab says potentially inhibits the growth of Christian tourism in the Holy Land. 

Ros-Lehtinen stipulated that the money not be used for assistance in Gaza or for road construction projects in the West Bank, except if directly related to security.  She also denied use for trade facilitation, tourism promotion, scholarships for Palestinian students and other aid for Palestinian Authority agencies and ministries.  Kattub comments:

It is hard to understand why a member of Congress would set such conditions over the recommendations of USAID. The USAID money for reconstruction of Gaza was pledged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and doesn’t go to the Hamas-led government but to the people of Gaza, who suffered tremendous hardships during the Israeli war in 2008-09. Road construction and trade facilitation projects in the West Bank fit perfectly with the two-state solution, which Israel’s prime minister supports.

He also thinks that this move contradicts a request for proposals from USAID, in which the U.S. government was looking for contractors able to help in rebuilding the following Christian sites in the occupied West Bank:

  • Burqeen church near Jenin, a Christian sanctuary dating to the early Byzantine era. The current structure dates to the 12th century.
  • Sabastia/Samria. The biblical capital of the Northern Kingdom of Ancient Israel, the current ruins date from the Roman period.
  • Tell Balata Archaeological Park in Nablus, which is listed as an archeological biblical site. It’s the site of the Canaanite and biblical city of Shechem.
  • Jacob’s well, reputed to be the site of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. The site is also associated with the biblical patriarchs.
  • Shepherd’s field in Beit Sahour, which is a Christian site near Bethlehem.

It is interesting that one or two people can counteract the will of congress, our democratically-elected means of governing.

New UNRWA reports show economic woes in Gaza and record number of children displaced by home demolitions

An UNRWA report done on the 5th anniversary of the Gaza blockade shows that unemployment in the 2nd half of 2010 reached an unprecedented 45%, one of the highest rates in the world.  Real wages continued to decline, especially in the private sector, falling 35% since the first half of 2006.

These are disturbing trends, and the refugees, which make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population, were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.  – UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness

Read more     |   Read full report   |  See Peace not Walls Gaza page


Another UNRWA report shows that a record number of children were displaced in May by Israeli eviction or demolition of Palestinian homes and families.  UNRWA has also created a new website called Demolition Watch that monitors these demolitions and evictions, and calls upon Israel to stop this practice as they claim it violates international law