Palestinians mourn during the funeral for their relatives killed during an Israeli offensive in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, on Jan 15. Archbishop Nicholas Chia said that the Church is in solidarity with the people in Gaza, who are suffering fear, death and deprivation. The Church also understands the desire of the Israelis to live without threats from rockets, he said. Both communities have a right to live with dignity and in peace, he added. CNS photo

SINGAPORE – Let us bring hope to our brothers and sisters living in despair in Gaza, said Archbishop Nicholas Chia in a letter to Catholics in the Singapore Archdiocese. "It is already painful to see the stark images of death and destruction on the TV screens. How much more painful the actual suffering and isolation of people in those places," Archbishop Chia said.

Archbishop Chia said that he had followed the crisis in Gaza escalate, with deep sorrow; and that the ceasefire declared by Israel and Hamas offers a glimmer of hope that the terrible suffering of the people of Gaza will ease and their fear reduced.

Since Dec 27 when Israel launched military action to halt Hamas rocket attacks, at least 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died in the conflict.

"As we prepare to celebrate the Chinese New Year let us spare a thought for our suffering brothers and sisters and offer a little extra to make a difference in their lives," Archbishop Chia encouraged.

The text of Archbishop Chia’s letter follows:

THE DECLARATIONS OF ceasefire by Israel and Hamas offer a glimmer of hope that the terrible suffering of the people of Gaza will ease and their fear reduced. We pray that the ceasefire will hold and that there will be enough men of good will to help stabilise the situation and to work toward lasting peace and justice for all peoples in the region.

I followed the crisis in Gaza with deep sorrow, seeing the violence escalate to the point when even the medical and food storage facilities manned by the U.N. security forces were bombed and a Caritas International medical clinic destroyed.

Since Dec 27 when Israel launched military action to halt Hamas rocket attacks, at least 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died in the conflict.

Innocent civilians in southern Israel have lived in fear of rocket attacks; those in Gaza have lived in extreme fear, and have been unwilling witnesses or victims of air and artillery strikes that have destroyed homes and other facilities, and wounded and killed innocent children, women and men.

As Church, we are against violence. Violence begets violence. We join in solidarity with the people in Gaza who are suffering and dying. We also understand the desire of Israelis living in the cities of southern Israel to live in peace, without being fearful of being hit by rockets launched from the Gaza strip by Palestinian militants. Both communities have a right to live with dignity and in peace.

As Church we are called to be peace builders. In solidarity with leaders and friends from other religious communities, we call on those with the power to use it to make the ceasefire hold and to univocally demand safe passage to humanitarian workers to carry out their emergency assistance to victims.

The TV and newspaper images of children crouching in fear are heart wrenching. They have to be protected from such violence. They see not only the death of their loved ones, but the wounded struggling for life and in pain, without medical help. This will breed feelings of hatred now and in future generations. Let us adopt and promote constructive actions that can remove the root causes of the conflict.

As Christians, we are called to follow the Prince of Peace.

Let us bring hope to our brothers and sisters living in despair. It is already painful to see the stark images of death and destruction on the TV screens. How much more painful the actual suffering and isolation of people in those places.

Let us add our voice to the voices of hope coming from different parts of the world.

Let us use the resources we have to reach out to those who are in need of food, medicine and shelter.

Let us reach out in hope with hearts desiring for reconciliation.

Let us raise the victims up in our prayers and be the voice for the voiceless and the hope for the hopeless.

Through international humanitarian aid, may the needy receive the basic necessities that are theirs by right.

Let our solidarity for our fellow humans promote the dignity that is theirs as children of the one God.

As we prepare to celebrate the Chinese New Year let us spare a thought for our suffering brothers and sisters and offer a little extra to make a difference in their lives. What we offer may be insignificant but we pray that it will be a reminder and a consolation to those living in isolation that they are not forgotten. Let us continue to pray for them.

We pray also for true conversion of hearts of those who have the power to broker peace that they work for an amicable solution to the crisis.

I have asked the Archdiocesan Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) to look into providing support to the victims of the violence and its aftermath. ACCT, as many of you are aware, coordinates the archdiocese’s response to man-made and natural disasters around the world.

ACCT manages a fund that enables it to respond fast when a need arises. If you wish to contribute to this fund, you can prepare a crossed cheque made payable to "Disaster Aid Fund". If you wish that your donation be used for a specific crisis or disaster, please indicate this on the back of the cheque, e.g. "Gaza Bombings". Please send your cheque by Feb 21 to: Archdiocesan Crisis CoordinationTeam, Attn: Mr Jerry Ow, 2 Highland Road, LG #01, Singapore 549102.


God bless you.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia

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