Dear Supporters of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education

Considering recent events in Israel and Gaza, we express our deep solidarity and compassion for all victims of this conflict - both Israelis and Palestinians. We also call on an immediate stop to the siege on Gaza by the Israeli government to allow humanitarian aid to innocent Palestinian people, as well as the unconditional, immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas.

We condemn the horrific crimes of Hamas on innocent victims in Israel. We also condemn action by the Government of Israel that indiscriminately leads to deaths and injuries of innocent civilians and mass displacement of people from Gaza. We ask that the international human rights conventions that Israel, the Australian Government, and many other countries observe and are signatories to are respected and maintained during this time. We also urge all parties involved in this conflict to resume peace talks as soon as possible. We believe that peace, security, and prosperity for both Palestinians and Israelis are the only conditions that can prevent further radicalisation on both sides.

The Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, as an organisation grounded in social justice, has a long history in peace and conflict resolution. We have worked with many people and cultures who have found themselves impacted by conflicts in the Middle East and other places and who have ended up as refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. We have worked in post conflict environments and seek to understand the paths that may lead to peace and reconciliation.

What we know is that the path to conflict can be very rapid and the paths to peace and reconciliation long and arduous.

We ask our supporters and those across our network to hold those caught up in the current conflict in our thoughts and prayers. Finding the strength and compassion to see the humanity in all during times of conflict is harder than choosing sides, but it is something we will strive for and encourage our networks and others to do.

Below is a prayer by Rosie Berger which we felt appropriate to share at this difficult time.

"God of Comfort, send your Spirit to encompass all those whose lives are torn apart by violence and death in Israel and Palestine. You are the Advocate of the oppressed and the One whose eye is on the sparrow. Let arms reach out in healing, rather than aggression. Let hearts mourn rather than militarize. God of Justice, give strength to those whose long work for a just peace might seem fruitless now. Strengthen their resolve. Do not let them feel alone. Show us how to support their work and bolster their courage. Guide religious leaders to model unity and reconciliation across lines of division. Guide political leaders to listen with their hearts as they seek peace and pursue it. Help all people choose the rigorous path of just peace and disavow violence.

God of Love, we lift up Palestine and Israel — its people, its land, its creatures. War is a monster that consumes everything in its path. Peace is a gift shared at meals of memory with Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Let us burn incense, not children. Let us break bread, not bodies. Let us plant olive groves, not cemeteries. We beg for love and compassion to prevail on all your holy mountains.

God of Hope, we lift up the cities of the region: Gaza City and Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Ashkelon, Deir El Balah and Sderot, so long divided, yet so filled with life and creativity. Come again to breathe peace on your peoples that all may recognize you.

God of Mercy, even now work on the hearts of combatants to choose life over death, reconciliation over retaliation, restoration over destruction. Help us resist antisemitism in all its forms, especially in our own churches. All people, Israelis, and Palestinians, deserve to live in peace and unafraid, with a right to determine their future together.

God of the Nations, let not one more child or elder be sacrificed on altars of political expediency. Keep safe all people from unjust leaders who would exploit vulnerability for their own distorted ends. Give wise discernment to those making decisions to pursue peace. Provide them insight into fostering well-being, freedom, and thriving for all. Teach all of us to resolve injustices with righteousness, not rockets. Guard our hearts against retaliation and give us hearts for love alone.

Strengthen our faith in you, O God of All Flesh, even when we don’t have clear answers, so that we may still offer ourselves for the cause of peace. Amen."

(Prayer by Rose Marie Berger, author of Bending the Arch: Poems, is a senior editor of Sojourners magazine.)

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