A Call for Prayers for Peace: A message from Bishop David Bard
October 10, 2023
Dear Friends in Christ in the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church,
Early in this century, an acronym to describe our changing world gained wide currency – VUCA. The world moving into the future is likely to be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
This past weekend, the world again experienced volatility when Gaza Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel, and Hamas fighters from Gaza invaded nearby Israeli towns. Over 900 people have been killed, and over 2500 injured. There have been reports of rape and torture, and over 130 people, including women and children, have been taken hostage. Much of the world has expressed outrage over these actions, for which there is no moral justification.
Let me be clear, these actions are morally unjustifiable and deserve condemnation.
It is also true that the historical background is complex. While we cannot let that complexity blunt our moral outrage, we must continue to wrestle with the realities that make peace so difficult and elusive in Palestine/Israel. Among the realities that make this situation complex are the long histories of both the Palestinian and Jewish people. These histories include dispossession, oppression, and deep trauma. Deep injustices have often marked the history of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people. Recent Israeli policies encouraging the ongoing formation of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory have deepened resentment and injustice. One Israeli journalist described the current policies as “establishing a government of annexation and dispossession.” Will the Israeli response to this Hamas attack be measured and proportionate? Thus far, retaliatory strikes have killed close to 700, and we mourn with those grieving in Gaza.
Prior invasions of Israel from nearby countries and terrorist bombings are part of this complex history. Among Israeli citizens are survivors of the Holocaust and family members of those who died during it. Regional politics add to this complexity, including the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its influence on Israeli and Palestinian actions.
I think we must seek to hold together an unambiguous condemnation of this recent attack, a recognition of the complexities of this region of the world, and a deep desire to achieve justice and peaceful coexistence. Our condemnation of these recent Hamas actions does not mitigate our concern for justice for the Palestinian people, a concern supported by our conference resolution last summer. In the name of Jesus, we remain committed to peace, a peace in which Israelis and Palestinians coexist and seek to flourish together. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church states: “We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of disputes among nations…. We yearn for the day when there will be no more war, and people will live together in peace and justice.” Let us pray out of this deep yearning for peace, justice, and a better world.
As we pray deeply for peace together in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, may we also pray for hearts and minds large enough to grapple with all the complexities that confront us as we “pursue what makes for peace” (Romans 14:19).
May we remain committed to hearing and following the call of Jesus to be peacemakers.
Grace and Peace,
David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop
This statement has been endorsed by the Michigan Conference Board of Justice.