Pastoral Letter from Bishop Skirving
Prayer and Action for The People of the Holy Land
October 12, 2023
To the People of the Diocese of East Carolina
Dear Friends in Christ,
One morning this week, I finally broke down in tears. Over an early cup of coffee, I listened to an interview with an Israeli teenager whose parents had been executed by Hamas terrorists, even as they protected him with their own bodies. Others had told his story earlier in the week. Now he was speaking for himself, with his sisters and grandfather at his side. The horrible and evil acts committed by terrorists in these last days have been overwhelming and heart-breaking.
The people of Israel have been in my prayers all week, as I know that they have been for so many of you. Our prayers need to continue, and our prayers must also include Palestinians who face great suffering …so many of them innocent and peace-loving civilians who themselves bear no responsibility for the terrorist actions of Hamas. This is the latest chapter in an ancient and complex conflict, and I would hope that we can hold in our prayers all who will be working for peace and justice and all who will endure great suffering, regardless of their religious and/or national heritage.
In a Zoom call yesterday with other bishops from across The Episcopal Church, I heard encouragement being offered for us to: affirm the sanctity of all human life; condemn all war crimes, regardless of who commits them; encourage the de-escalation of conflict as something that would be in Israel’s best interest, and; watch for the risk that this regional conflict might expand into our local communities. During our Zoom meeting, a message from Archbishop Hosam Naoum was shared with us. Archbishop Naoum leads the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Episcopal Church in the Middle East. He has urged us “to advocate for the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor and convoy into Gaza” and “to address the critical humanitarian crisis among the 2 million+ civilian population there, half of whom are children.” He has also encouraged us to support the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem Gaza Appeal, which you can do by visiting their website at https://afedj.org and donating there. Some have suggested designating our gifts “where the need is greatest.”
Besides writing to invite your continued prayers, individually and as congregations, I also write to invite you to consider some other possibilities. You might choose to write to your representatives in congress to encourage them to give attention to the needs of all who will suffer during this conflict. You might use resources from AFEDJ to learn more about the work of the church in this ancient part of our world, yourself or with others from your congregation. You might find ways to offer your personal support to Jewish and Islamic siblings-in-faith in your own communities as they grieve or face hostility. You might also join them in public acts of prayer or in public witnesses to peace. You might donate to support the Episcopal Church in Israel and Gaza in the work that they now face.
Many of us still hold the people of Ukraine in our prayers, even as their war with Russia drags on longer than any would have imagined. It is entirely possible that the acts of terror by Hamas against the people of Israel have sparked a conflict that will continue for a long time. Let us find ways to work for peace in these places and our own; and let us be faithful in bearing witness to the dignity of every human life.
Yours in Christ,