Is humanity failing?

– There is absolutely no moral justification for depriving people of their fundamental needs, states Olav Fykse Tveit and Einar Tjelle in the Church of Norway.

Photo: AN/Mohammed Ibrahim/Unsplash.

Presiding bishop Olav Fykse Tveit 
Director for ecumenical and international relations Einar Tjelle

Les teksten på norsk: Svikter menneskeheten?

The images of children and adults killed and mutilated in Gaza are so horrific that they are difficult to comprehend. But we must guard ourselves against getting used to thousands of children and adults being murdered and injured. Humanitarian organisations are calling this a collapse of humanity. What do our Christian and humanistic values signify now? 

Some apply religious rhetoric to defend the terrorist acts of Hamas or Israel's warfare. This only serves to make the situation all the more dangerous. It is abuse of our religions.

We especially want to warn against the use of biblical texts by some Christian groups to defend violent attacks against the civilian population in Gaza right now. The Biblical message of peace applies to all.

The Israeli authorities and Hamas can and must stop these acts of war, but the international community also has a responsibility. Both parties in this war have support, both political and economic, that is instrumental in blocking international interaction and obstructing the UN’s room for manoeuvre.

We must apply stronger international pressure for increased humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, and for a stop to the warfare. At this time, the self-interests of the different parties must be set aside. Norwegian humanitarian organisations are doing what they can to save lives and protect human dignity.

The rules of warfare apply, irrespective of the reasons underlying the acts of war. The attack by Hamas on 7 October must be condemned in the strongest terms. The hostages must be freed immediately! The attack in October has undermined the feeling of security for all persons in Israel and for Jews all over the world, evoking memories of genocide and attacks on Jews throughout history. 

And, now the people of Gaza are experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe, which the world has rarely seen before. The survivors from Gaza will have to carry horrible trauma for the rest of their lives. The rules of warfare state the right to medical aid and treatment, and that all persons are to be treated humanely. The bombing of civilian targets, the shut-down of access to water, food, power and medical supplies make this impossible. There is absolutely no moral justification for depriving people of their fundamental needs. Every life is of equal value.

An immediate ceasefire is essential. Lasting peace requires both parties to acknowledge the rights of the opposite party to live in their own country, and to live in safety. As we speak, Israel is occupying and partly annexing territories belonging to another people, with an increasing number of new settlements. Those who live in the Palestinian territories are therefore living under major restrictions to their fundamental rights.

Here in Norway, we all have a responsibility to protect those who are most affected by the war. This applies especially to Jews and Palestinians who live here, but also others. Some have relatives and friends who have died or have been injured or are trying to escape. Many are scared and desperate.

Norwegian Jews are reporting an increase in harassment and anti-Semitism. Others report an increase in anti-Muslim hostility. This is totally unacceptable. At this time, we have to stand together and take care of each other. Everybody should be able to feel safe in Norway. The freedom of speech must be both protected and used wisely, not least when times are hard.

We are all responsible for supporting those who work to achieve a just peace. And for every day that passes, this need becomes all the more urgent.

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