Archbishop on Gaza: 'Destructive cycle of violence must end'

(PA)The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has today urged an end to the conflict in Gaza, condemning "the destructive cycle of violence" for causing "untold suffering".

"You can't look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security," he said in a statement released today.

"Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence."

Archbishop Justin Welby went on to praise those offering humanitarian aid in the region, offering them his "utmost admiration", and encouraging the international Christian community to give them full support, both prayerfully and financially.

"While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian," Welby added.

"The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all.

"The road to reconciliation is hard, but ultimately the only route to security. It is the responsibility of all leaders to protect the innocent, not only in the conduct of war but in setting the circumstances for a just and sustainable peace."

The Archbishop also underlined the necessity of establishing good inter-faith relations around the world, insisting on the importance of "working together to show our concern and support for those of goodwill on all sides working for peace."

The statement from Lambeth Palace ended by noting that Welby "fully accepts that Israel has the same legitimate rights to peace and security as any other state and to self-defence within humanitarian law when faced with an external threat.

"At the same time he shares the despair, and acknowledges the growing anger felt by many, including Jewish people to whom he has spoken, at the recent escalation of violence by all involved. All this highlights the need for underlying issues to be addressed, whether the ongoing terror threat to Israel or the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

"The failure to find constructive paths to peace poses a threat to the future of all the peoples of the region."

Christian Aid also called today for an "immediate end to all violence" in Gaza, in addition to "honest and concrete measures to demonstrate to all those who breach international law that they will be held to account."

Strongly condemning Israeli action, a statement from the organisation reads: "This latest outbreak of violence is not about Gaza. The people who are now dying in their hundreds are paying the price for a lethal combination of international political impotence and indifference to decades of Palestinian dispossession and displacement.

"It appears from its actions that Israel disregards the most basic rights of Palestinians."

The statement insists that "a two-state solution has all but failed," noting that Israel is determined to maintain control of Palestine, to the detriment its occupants.

"For Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to be truly secure, democratic and peaceful, then occupation must end and all within it must be treated equally. If the international community continues with the same approach to this conflict, then it is complicit in the current situation. Christian Aid believes that relationships must change between Israel, the Palestinians and third party states and be transformed into ones that centre on accountability."

"The British Government has been clear in its condemnation of Hamas's rockets, as are we," the statement concludes.

"It needs to be equally clear in its condemnation of the killings of civilians and destruction of medical facilities and homes by Israel. Any imbalance, perceived or real, could undermine genuine efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

"Future attempts at peace will have to be inclusive and respect the rights and dignity of all if they are to stand any chance of success. Something that hasn't happened so far."