On 19 January the Moderator of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, the Rev. Jason Kioa, was one of the guest speakers at a rally for peace in the Middle East. Held in Melbourne, Jason spoke on behalf of the UCA President, Rev Gregor Henderson.
You can read the speech below.
Friends, I speak here today firstly as a Christian. We Christians believe that every human being is precious in God’s sight, and that therefore any killing of people, especially of innocent civilians, is an abomination. Christian churches throughout the world have been calling for weeks now for a ceasefire in Gaza and for a commitment to talks for a just and lasting peace.
I speak secondly as the leader of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, representing here the national President of our church, Reverend Gregor Henderson. The Uniting Church released a public statement within days of the commencement of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. In that statement Mr Henderson said, “We deplore the rocket attacks from Gaza, we deplore the brutal military action of the Government of Israel, not least its killing of defenseless civilians. We deplore the fact that Israel did not take the opportunity afforded by the ceasefire last year to begin peace talks with Hamas alongside the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.”
This national statement of the Uniting Church also acknowledges our church’s support for the right of the state of Israel to exist, and to exist within secure borders, but goes on to say that these rights do not give Israel, or any state, the right to destroy its neighbours with impunity.
And thirdly, I speak to you today simply as a human being. Where is the sense of our common humanity in the killings of children, in the appalling humanitarian situation which the world allows to continue in Gaza, in ambulances being held up for up to 18 hours from rescuing injured children, in the fact that organizations like the Red Cross and the United Nations have been reduced to pleading with the Israeli authorities for some show of humanity towards the suffering people of Gaza? We churches received an e-mail last week from one of the Catholic priests in Gaza, telling us of the funeral of a 14 year old girl who died not from Israeli bombs or bullets, but who dropped dead from a heart attack as she sheltered in her apartment with her family. She died of fear. What future catastrophes are we creating here, with generations of Palestinians knowing only oppression and violence!
Friends, let me remind us all that the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths are each committed to peace and to peace-making. People who engage in violence while claiming to be people of faith are in fact denying that faith. The Jewish prophet Micah thousands of years ago cried out to his nation of Israel that what God wants from us is to “do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. There’s no justice, no mercy, no humility and no godliness in the killing and destruction going on in Gaza.
We in the Uniting Church call on Australians to lobby our MPs for the Australian Government to do much much more for peace in the Middle East, for Australians to give generously to the appeals for humanitarian relief opened by the National Council of Churches, the Anglican Church, Caritas and World Vision, and for Australians to pray to God that hatred and oppression and despair and violence will cease, and that justice, mercy and peace will prevail. Thank you.