Gaza: Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland in plea for peace
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland has called for prayer for the Middle East.
In a statement the Right Rev Dr Michael Barry condemned the "senseless killing in the Middle East" and urged those involved to call a "permanent ceasefire".
He said: "There is no easy solution to a problem that many have tried to solve and failed.
"What is easy is to sit 2,500 miles away and offer advice for a situation we know little about. We experienced such advice during the 1970s and 80s from around the world.
"However, the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas and others operating out of Gaza has escalated to such a level that comment must be made. It is also appropriate to speak from a Christian viewpoint in the light of unsuccessful ceasefire attempts."
A total of 56 soldiers and three Israeli civilians have been killed since the offensive began, and almost 1,400 Palestinians – the vast majority civilians.
He continued: "Christians are called to be peacemakers and to encourage peacemakers in conflict situations. As such it is unhelpful to support one side and condemn the other. The violence we see in the Middle East is wrong.
"We echo the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who has said, 'In the name of humanity, the violence must stop'. That is a position with which all Christians would concur.
"I have already spoken about the need to show respect to others. That means all others – not just those with whom we agree. We deplore the attacks on homes and places of worship in Belfast and elsewhere regardless of the religion or nationality of those who suffer them, and call on those intent on causing division to stop.
"Likewise we condemn the senseless killing in the Middle East and urge those involved to call a permanent ceasefire.
"Quite simply the violence must stop now."