London MP: 'Epiphany story highlights need for Middle East peace'

 Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, has called for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and for refugees to be given access to humanitarian aid, just as the Holy family were over 2000 years ago.

St Matthew's Gospel, retold at Epiphany, tells the story of the Holy Family fleeing violence in Palestine. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you". Christian tradition in the Middle East tells how the family would have made the journey from Bethlehem, via Ashkelon, through Gaza, and out through Rafah into Egypt.

But refugee families in Gaza today are trapped in violence and poverty, with few routes for humanitarian aid to come in, and no routes out.

Local Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East Sarah Teather said: "When I visited the Holy Land at Easter last year I was left devastated by the conditions in which so many people are forced to live, particularly in Gaza. I saw real human suffering and experienced first hand the sense of hopelessness felt by so many on both sides of the border.

"Rocket attacks on Israeli towns like Ashkelon and Sderot are unacceptable and have to stop, and Israel has a right to self defence. But the scale of these attacks is completely disproportionate and I can only imagine the trauma and human misery that this current violence will leave in its wake.

"The Epiphany story highlights the human cost of violence, and Christians retelling this story in Churches this week should be reminded of the significance of the places in the story to real families today. The journey the Holy family made at Epiphany would not be possible this week because the boarders at Erez and Rafah are closed.

I hope that Christians will give active support, as well as prayer, to those families today who are desperate for humanitarian aid, and desperate to escape from misery and violence in the Holy Land."

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