Speaking from Jerusalem, the Methodist minister Rev David Hardman says Christians are called to follow the Prince of Peace
I think it’s safe to say, both in the West Bank and here in Jerusalem, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. That seems an obvious thing to say, I suppose. But we’ve witnessed conflict in Gaza before. We’ve witnessed rocket attacks, and we’ve witnessed Israel retaliating to that.
What happened over the weekend was quite unprecedented. The fact that Hamas fighters actually got out of Gaza into southern Israel, there’s a real sense of not knowing how this is going to escalate. You can never tell, of course, but there has been a pattern in the past that people are used to. Most people are thinking: This seems different.
We need to bring peace and justice so there is safety for Palestinians and Israelis
I don’t think anyone who hasn’t had to face something like that can understand how it feels. We can guess: obviously, there is anger and fear. People respond to that in different ways. Some will want to retaliate or see ‘justice’ done. But any loss of life is horrendous and, as Christians, we stand as followers of the Prince of Peace, on the side of peace.
The bigger picture
There needs to be a peace process. There needs to be a real consensus across the international community. We need to bring peace and justice so there is safety for Palestinians and Israelis. There needs to be some way in which we can move forward in this contested part of the world.
I was in Gaza almost exactly 12 months ago. It’s a very small strip of land, and it is heavily secured. To get in, as an international, you need permission from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. You go through three lots of security. It’s one of the most densely populated parts of the world. I only stayed there for two nights but, because I know the history of Gaza, I was imagining what it would be like if there were airstrikes. There is nowhere to go. It’s very difficult.
Even before the siege, 95 per cent of the population of Gaza didn’t have access to clean water and reliable electricity. You might have it for 12 hours a day, but now you’ve not got that supply. For the hospitals that are trying to treat those that are wounded, it’s a desperate situation.
Last Sunday, I was due to come to Jerusalem from the West Bank for a church service. We weren’t able to do that because the checkpoints were closed and the West Bank was locked down. So we went online as a Christian community. We are a mixed community of Palestinian and Israeli backgrounds. We had a very simple service, and before we prayed, we just talked about our concerns. We had Israelis whose relatives had been called up and were in the army around Gaza. We had Palestinians who had families in Gaza, who were concerned for their safety.
As Christians, we stand as followers of the Prince of Peace, on the side of peace
As a Christian community, we came together from different political sides, seeing things from our own particular perspectives, and we prayed for each other’s concerns. That’s a very powerful place. The presence of God was in those prayers.
The cost of this war is the life of human beings, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim or Christian. The human cost is absolutely horrendous. Jesus walked this land and said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) and this is the exact opposite.
David Hardman was speaking on Premier Christian Radio’s Inspirational Breakfast show. Listen live or on demand at premier.plus