In a statement issued on Tuesday, the heads of churches in Jerusalem and the Holy Land called on the international community and the state of Israel to end the current siege on the Gaza Strip which has caused most recently cuts in electricity and limited the shipments of medicine, fuel, food and other goods across the border. The statement says the siege of Gaza has effectively imprisoned one and a half million people without proper food or medicine. The church leaders stress that "this is illegal collective punishment, an immoral act in violation of the basic human, natural as well as international laws. It cannot be tolerated anymore. The siege over Gaza should end now." The statement urged Palestinians to unite in ending their differences for the sake of the people in Gaza and urged Israel to act responsibly. In a letter issued yesterday, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia called on the Council's 347 member churches around the world to pray for the end of the suffering in Gaza and speak out for the people in Gaza to their governments. "Address your parishes, the public, your governments and the embassies", Kobia writes, "calling for an end to the siege, an end to their collective punishments and a negotiated ceasefire". The letter urges churches to manifest solidarity with the churches in Palestine by supporting the work done by local churches on the ground and church-related agencies like Action by Churches Together. Kobia also suggests to send messages of support directly to the local churches. In a letter to the parish priest of Gaza, Mgr Manuel Musallam, the Archbishop of Liverpool, Most Rev Patrick Kelly wrote yesterday: 'Both Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, and I have just returned from a visit to the Holy Land. It was very clear that there can be no secure justice and peace for the peoples of this land which leaves out Gaza. Together with the Churches of the Holy Land we will never be silent in the face of violence. To violence is now added the undermining of life, especially for the most vulnerable in Gaza, by the closure of access for aid and restrictions to the supply of energy. We may not remain silent and must call on everyone to place at the centre of every decision the needs of children and all those who are most vulnerable. You are and your people are very much in our prayers at this time.' Source: WCC/CCS
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