Israel-Palestine war: Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Gaza ceasefire in break from UK policy

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Archbishop Issues Ceasefire Plea, Breaking with UK Policy on Gaza

In a bold break from the British government’s stance, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Sunday. He demanded an end to Israel’s bombing of civilians, joining Middle East church leaders in their plea.

The archbishop’s urgent appeal directly contradicts Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s refusal to back a UN ceasefire resolution last week. However, it aligns Welby with protesters who marched through London Saturday condemning Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

The church leaders expressed horror over civilian deaths, including a strike on a Gaza church shelter that killed 18. With hospitals and schools bombed as people fled demolished homes, they condemned the “relentless campaign” against residential areas.

“We call upon all warring parties to de-escalate, cease targeting civilians, and abide by international rules of warfare,” the statement urged. It said a humanitarian ceasefire was vital to assist displaced Gazans deprived of basics like food and water.

Welby’s stance signals an unprecedented split between Britain’s political and religious institutions over Gaza. It comes amidst growing international criticism of the civilian death toll and human rights violations.

While affirming Israel’s right to self-defence against terrorism, the archbishop stressed that principles distinguishing civilians from combatants require strict adherence. His focus lay with easing the human suffering on all sides.

With reconciliation a distant hope today, Welby at minimum pushed for a cessation of violence to allow aid and mercy to reach those in desperate need. The Archbishop separated political calculations from a compassionate Christian duty to alleviate suffering, providing moral clarity amidst the fog of war.

Among the church leaders who supported the statement were Theophilos 111, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem; the Latin Patriarch Fuad Twai; and the Armenian and Coptic patriarchs.

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