19 June 2024

Christians condemn bombing of Gaza Anglican hospital 

Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital has been bombed, killing hundreds. Picture: Anglican Board of Mission/Anglicans in Development 

Maya Pilbrow

18 October 2023

Anglican leaders and groups have condemned the bombing of an Anglican-run hospital in Gaza, which killed hundreds of people. 

Anglican Overseas Aid said it was deeply saddened by the attack on al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which it has been working with since 1988. 

Anglican Overseas Aid chief executive Jo Knight said she mourned the horrific attack on a hospital that many Australian Anglican communities had supported and walked alongside for many years. 

Both Israel and Hamas have denied responsibility for the attack. It is yet to be confirmed from where the strike that hit the hospital was launched. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said those found responsible must be held to account. 

The Anglican Board of Mission has launched an emergency appeal for al-Ahli Hospital. According to ABM, initial estimates suggested the attack killed 200 people, and possibly more than 500 people.  

The attack was especially horrific because many Gazans sought shelter at al-Ahli Hospital believing it would not be bombed, according to Palestinian Christians in Australia founder Suzan Wahhab. She said the hospital was well known among Gazans as a potential safe refuge during airstrikes. In addition to providing shelter for civilians, the hospital also provided health care for 45,000 Gazans each year according to Anglican Overseas Aid.

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A statement from the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, described the targeting of the hospital, which the diocese runs, as a crime against humanity and declared a day of mourning in all its churches and institutions. 

The attack on al-Ahli Hospital comes as Christian leaders call for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. Christian leaders in the region and around the world condemned attacks on civilians following a Hamas surprise attack on Southern Israel on 7 October and retaliating Israeli attacks on Gaza. 

Hundreds of Israeli civilians and thousands of Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, according to Human Rights Watch. 

A week before the bombing of al-Ahli Hospital, hospital director and Palestinian Christian Suhaila Tarazi told Anglican Overseas Aid the situation was horrific with no access to water, electricity, food, fuel or shelter. Since the attack, Anglican Overseas Aid has not been able to confirm the safety of Ms Tarazi*. 

Ecumenical Christian leaders including the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem Hosam Naoum issued a statement on 8 October calling for peace and justice in the region following the outbreak and escalation of violence. 

In the statement, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem implored political leaders and authorities to seek peaceful solutions. 

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Christian ecumenical organisation Sabeel, founded by Palestinian Anglican priest The Reverend Naim Ateek, called for combatants to reject violence and uphold the sanctity of civilian lives. 

In Australia, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network vice-president and Anglican priest the Reverend Dr Ray Williamson urged Christians to affirm the fundamental biblical truth that every life was of intrinsic value by praying for the United Nations and others seeking to broker a ceasefire and for those working towards justice and reconciliation. He said there could be no peace without justice. 

On Saturday, Melbourne Synod passed a motion lamenting the loss of life and widespread injury in Israel and Gaza. It also condemned the use of violence against civilians. Moving the motion, the Reverend Chris Porter said the conflict was the result of complex, entrenched and systemic violence and urged synod to petition governments to pursue non-violent options. 

Archbishop Philip Freier also spoke about his experiences visiting the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza fifteen years ago. 

Speaking separately, Anglican bishop and former president of the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network the Right Reverend George Browning said the use of violence was not only morally wrong but ended up perpetuating more violence. 

He said there were extreme attitudes from both Hamas and the Israeli government that needed to be overcome for a peaceful solution. 

*AOA has since said they have heard from a third party that Suhaila Tarazi is safe.

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