We, the bishops of the Church of Norway, gathered for a Bishops’ conference meeting in Oslo, from October 16 – 19, 2023, would like to express our compassion with all who are victims of the acts of terror and war in Gaza and Israel.
Together with the churches in The Holy Land, we ask that the terror and violence must end.
We strongly condemn all attacks on civilian targets, both the first terrorist attacks by Hamas and the latest bombing of the hospital in Gaza. These serious violations of humanitarian and international law exceed the limits of imagination when it comes to evil and suffering. Thousands are killed, even more injured and traumatised, and people live in fear of new attacks. Countless human beings have lost their homes and have been forced to flee.
Everything possible must be done to stop this catastrophe and a further escalation of the violence. The acute humanitarian crises following the taking of hostages, the blockade, and the bombing of civilians on Gaza must be solved immediately.
The children are always the most vulnerable in terror and war. The injuries, the trauma and the fear that the children in Israel and Gaza are experiencing these days will accompany them for the rest of their lives. This coming weekend we have a national fundraising campaign, a televised annual happening, which in 2023 is dedicated to Save the Children under the title «Let the Children Live in Peace». The last days´ events show how necessary and important it is to support this work just now.
We would also like to express our compassion and support for everyone in our own country who are affected by the war and the crisis in the Middle East. These are family members, friends and people close to the civilians who have been killed, injured or taken hostage, and those who live in fear and in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. We encourage everyone to show compassion and support in any way possible.
We all carry a responsibility not to dehumanise other people. Dehumanisation happens through terrorism and violations of international law, and it happens when we don’t respect human dignity. It can also occur in discussions or when we talk about each other in our own country. Hate and hate speech when we meet each other and in social media, are dangerous. It poisons communities and hurts all of us. Within the church and within our congregations there are also many and strong opinions and sympathies for different parties. But now we need to build bridges and create reconciliation.
The current crisis in the Middle East must lead to renewed and real efforts to create a just peace for all people in Palestine and Israel. A lasting, fair and peaceful agreement for the Palestinian people, since the UN decisions in 1948, has not yet been established. We therefore ask the Norwegian government to take new initiatives, and to follow up the many good intentions from previous processes, even if they have not led to the wanted results. It is now more important than ever to support local churches and religious communities that work for just peace.
Together with churches and people of different faiths around the world, we pray that terror and violence must end, and for a future with justice and peace for everyone.
Kyrie Eleison! Lord, have mercy on all!