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January 7, 2009

ELCIC National Bishop Urges Prime Minister to Reconsider Government's Position on Situation in Gaza and Join in Call for Immediate Ceasefire

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Bishop Susan C. Johnson urges the Prime Minister to reconsider the Government of Canada's position to place the sole burden of responsibility on Hamas for the deepening humanitarian tragedy in Gaza and, join the many voices speaking out for an immediate ceasefire.

In a letter sent on January 5 to the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Bishop Johnson expressed disappointment in the January 4 statement issued by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs on the hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

In the statement, the Honourable Minister Lawrence Cannon said the government urges, renewed international diplomatic efforts to achieve a sustainable and durable ceasefire, starting with the halting of all rocket attacks on Israel, further saying that the Canadian government, maintains that the rocket attacks are the cause of this crisis.

Bishop Johnson, currently travelling in the Middle East, is hearing first-hand the stories of suffering from the people of Gaza and notes the extreme disproportion between civilian and combatant casualties, specifically deaths and injuries to defenceless women and children.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, she states, there is no justifiable defence for this incursion into Gaza with such large casualties. Placing sole blame for the magnitude of the current crisis on these clearly indefensible rocket attacks functionally absolves the Government of Israel from responsibility for the extreme civilian casualties that are being incurred.

Bishop Johnson is calling on the Prime Minister to not only reconsider the government's position and call for an immediate ceasefire, but to then also, support negotiations for a just and lasting peace, [and] support any United Nations resolutions that call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The full letter from ELCIC National Bishop Johnson to the Prime Minister is available online at: http://www.elcic.ca/Documents/JAN09LETTERTOPM.pdf.

Almost 600 Palestinians have been killed and as many as 3000 injured in Gaza so far. Action By Churches Together (ACT) International reports that many of the injured are unable to seek medical attention and are stuck in their homes without food and water. As of January 6, 5 Israeli civilians had been killed by Hamas rockets, and 5 Israel Defense Forces soldiers have been killed, 3 by so-called friendly fire.

National Bishop Johnson, four of the five synod bishops, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, along with more than half of the 66 bishops of the ELCA, the ELCA secretary, plus spouses and staff are visiting the Middle East, Jan. 6-13, 2009. Participants will meet with Israeli and Palestinian religious, community and political leaders, visit congregations and schools, and sites of religious significance. 

A small delegation, including National Bishop Johnson and Presiding Bishop Hanson, were in Jordan, Jan. 3-6. They met Jordanian religious and political leaders before traveling to Jerusalem to meet their colleagues.

Details and updates from the Bishops' trip is online at: http://elcic.ca/From-the-Bishop/default.cfm

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 162,000 baptized members in 613 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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