Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
|The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison||
Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich
|The Revd Canon Michael Robinson||Canon Theologian and Bishops' Chaplain||01473 252829|
|Diane Matthews||Bishops' and Archdeacons' Executive Assistant||01473 252829|
|Terry Atkins||Secretary to the Bishop||01473 252829|
Bishop Martin Seeley writes in Bury Free Press (November 2023)…
As I write this news is coming through of the possibility of a pause in fighting and a deal that will lead to the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.
I had the searing privilege recently of meeting with family members who lost loved ones in the savage and barbaric attack by Hamas’ terrorists on October 7, whose relatives are among the hostages. The attack left the bodies of mutilated babies, children and adults in its terrifying wake. We can hardly imagine the anguish they are living with, let alone the conditions their loved ones in captivity are experiencing. And now we have seen the unrelenting response on Gaza by the Israeli military forces.
The destruction of the city, the flight of thousands to the south with no route out, the desperate shortage of aid supplies, the real prospect of starvation, and the mounting death toll is hard to take in.
This is all in a piece of land about 25 miles long, and between 3.5 and 7.5 miles wide, with a population of more than 2 million. Imagine Suffolk east of the A12 from Felixstowe to Saxmundham, and with a population of 2 million people, not 130,000. So what do we hope for, for the people living in the Holy Land and for our world as we approach the season when we renew our hope for peace and goodwill?
How do we declare that hope when war is raging in so many parts of our world, in the land of the one who’s birth we are going to celebrate, the one called the “Prince of Peace”? The images on our screens, and the horrific stories coming out of Israel and Gaza, bring home humanity’s incredible capacity for savagery, violence, and destruction. So what can we do to be able to give voice to the hope this Christmas for peace and goodwill?
“The fundamental question is this: what kind of society can be envisaged both for a secure Israeli state and a secure neighbouring Palestinian state. That path is not clear, but it must be imagined – and that imagining must start again now.”
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke these words over six weeks ago, right after the Hamas terrorist attack, and the destruction of the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza by a missile, the origin of which still remains unclear.
It is incredibly difficult for those of us outside of the immediate violence and suffering to know how to think about a peaceful future for the Holy Land, and it must be virtually impossible right now for those in the midst of the conflict. Yuval Noah Harari, Professor of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote recently, “Most Israelis are psychologically incapable at this moment of empathizing with the Palestinians. The mind is filled to the brim with our own pain, and no space is left to even acknowledge the pain of others. And you can imagine most Palestinians are psychologically incapable of empathizing with the Israelis. Harari goes on though with a plea to those of us outside the immediate situation. But outsiders who are not themselves immersed in pain should make an effort to empathize with all suffering humans, rather than lazily seeing only part of the terrible reality. It is the job of outsiders to help maintain a space for peace. We deposit this peaceful space with you, because we cannot hold it right now. Take good care of it for us, so that one day, when the pain begins to heal, both Israelis and Palestinians might inhabit that space.”
So what could that mean, to maintain the space for peace?
We begin by expressing our solidarity for all the innocent people who are suffering, on both sides of the conflict. We hold the space for peace, hold on to hope, and imagine a better future, by starting with care and compassion for all those in desperate need, regardless of whether they are Israeli or Palestinian. We hold on to the fundamental belief that every human being is precious.
Acts of terror and savagery are acts against people’s shared humanity, including the humanity of those who perpetrate such acts. So we actively show care and compassion, in our prayers for the people suffering in this conflict, and in our actions. We can take the simple action of reaching out to friends, neighbours and colleagues who are personally affected. We can give, and maybe ask others to give at Christmas in lieu of a gift to ourselves, to charities aiding the victims of this conflict.
We can make sure that we don’t contribute to racist, antisemitic or Islamophobic rhetoric by choosing our language carefully; this is a conflict between Israel and Hama, not ‘Jews and Muslims’ or ‘Arabs and Jews’.
We urge our Government to act justly and swiftly, to press for the release of all the hostages, for channels to be opened for aid to reach all victims, for a cessation of the conflict. And we can believe that peace is possible, and support those who work for peace.
In these ways we renew our intention and our hope for peace and goodwill as we celebrate the birth of the one who became human, to help us become human.
Previous Press Articles
To find out more
Please follow the Bishops on their Facebook Page for weekly vLogs, Morning Prayers and the latest news. Bishop Martin and Jutta lead daily Mornings Prayers on Facebook at 8.30am Monday to Friday. Do please join them!
Please subscribe to the Bishops' YouTube channel to view latest videos.