Evangelical Spokesman Takes No Side on Gaza Conflict

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2009 10:27 AM EST

The head of the largest evangelical body in the world released a statement Sunday night on the Gaza-Israel conflict in which he avoided blaming either side for the current outbreak in violence but instead urged the international community to make all possible efforts to end the complicated hostility.

“The God who is near wants to bless the Jewish people but not at the expense of the Arab people and He wants to bless the Arab people but not at the expense of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance.

The statement was also signed by the WEA ambassador to the Holy Land, the Rev. Harry Tees.

Tunnicliffe emphasized that the WEA, which speaks for more than 400 million evangelical Christians worldwide, represents both Christians in Israel as well as in Gaza.

“We pray for those who have lost loved ones as well as those who have caused lives to be lost,” Tunnicliffe said in his effort to embrace all sides involved in the highly emotionally charged conflict.

“We know that the God who heals and forgives longs to restore and rebuild the broken-hearted,” he added.

On Monday, Israeli tanks entered densely populated Gaza City as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to strike Hamas with an “iron fist” if it does not stop firing rockets into southern Israel, reported Agence France-Presse.

Despite the heavy pummel delivered by Israeli forces, Hamas vowed Sunday to not stop fighting until Israel ends its military offensive and lifts the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

An Israel army spokesman said nearly 30 missiles had been launched from Gaza throughout Monday, although there were no reported casualties.

The intensive fighting between the two archenemies has resulted in more than 900 Palestinian deaths – hundreds being civilians – and at least 13 Israelis deaths since the conflict began nearly three weeks ago.

"We want to end the operation when the two conditions we have demanded are met: ending the rocket fire and stopping Hamas's rearmament. If these two conditions are met, we will end our operation in Gaza," Olmert said in a speech Monday in the southern town of Ashkelon, according to AFP.

"Anything else will meet the iron fist of the Israeli people, who are no longer ready to tolerate the Qassams (rockets)."

A Hamas spokesman has claimed its Israeli enemy has been stunned by the Islamists’ resilience.

“We can assure our people that victory is now closer than ever,” said the Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nunu.

The current Gaza-Israel conflict is the worst the Mideast has seen in decades. Many church leaders and denominational heads have joined world leaders in the call for an immediate cease-fire between Hamas and Israel over the past two weeks.

Tunnicliffe joined them yesterday with an appeal to those in leadership to do their “utmost to end all hostilities and consequent violence.”

“We also call upon the international community to carefully but resolutely respond to the crisis,” the WEA international director said. “The feelings on the ground are highly sensitive; it is not a time to blame but to respond with concern for all who are undergoing trauma.”

He acknowledged that it may be hard to imagine a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict given its complexity, but “we dare to dream together of a Middle East where Jews and Arabs are able to enjoy life side by side in peace.”

Christians, especially those affiliated with the WEA, were called to fast and pray for peace in the Middle East and particularly for this crisis this week. Christians have also been urged to help support efforts to alleviate the humanitarian disaster caused by the conflict in Gaza.