Wide range of Christian leaders call for ceasefire in Gaza

Bombed Street in Gaza

An open letter signed by Christian leaders from major streams of Australian Christianity, evangelical to progressive with strong representation from Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians calls for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.” The letter calls for hostages and political prisoners to be freed, and a permanent settlement with Palestinians and Isrealis lining within secure borders.

Australia’s highest ranking Anglican, Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, Uniting Church in Australia President Rev Sharon Hollis and Micah Australia Executive Director Tim Costello are among 106 signatories to a letter urging parliament to call for an immediate and enduring end to the war and restore community cohesion. 

 “The scale of death and destruction in Gaza is horrifying and unacceptable,” said Archbishop Smith, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia. 

 “We acknowledge the painful history of dispossession and violence faced by both Israelis and Palestinians leading to this and prior wars.  

 “But this must not be used to justify the deaths of more than 32,000 civilians – over a third of them children. 

 “We are calling on MPs and senators from across the political spectrum to call publicly for a permanent end to fighting between Israel and militant groups. 

 “It would be appalling for Australia, and the world, to tolerate the bombing and starvation of children as an unavoidable means to an end.” 

The church leaders urged parliamentarians across the political divide to advocate for an end to military support for all parties involved in the war, the immediate and secure flow of aid into Gaza, and return of hostages and political prisoners held by Hamas and Israel. 

The letter also called for all of those who had been forced from their homes because of this war and previous fighting to receive reparations and be given the opportunity to return. 

Rev Sharon Hollis said: “The war is inflicting immense pain and suffering to Israeli and Palestinian communities across the globe, including Australia. 

“It’s vital that our politicians show courage and wisdom by uniting to calm community tensions and call for a permanent end to the horror unfolding in Gaza.” 

Revd Costello said: “The continued bombardment of Gaza will not lead to peace. An immediate end to the fighting is needed to rebuild the enclave, and set the preconditions of a durable and peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.” 

Other leaders of denominations signing the letter include: Revd David Burke, Minister, [and Moderator-General] Presbyterian Church of Australia, and Revd Mark Wilson, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries.

College principals include Rev Professor Vicky Balabanski, Principal, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, University of Divinity; Revd Dr Peter Francis, Principal, Malyon Theological College; Rev Dr Gary Millar, Principal, Queensland Theological College; Rev Associate Professor Robyn Whitaker, Acting Principal, Pilgrim Theological College; Professor Peter Sherlock, Vice-Chancellor, University of Divinity, and Revd Canon Dr Mark Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College.

As noted in the letter they sign as individuals, not as representatives of their churches or institutions. The Other Cheek notes little representation from leaders of Pentecostal churches or colleges.

The letter

As Australian Christians we have been watching the developments that have unfolded in Gaza in the wake of the 7 October 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel with a heavy heart, and a growing conviction that we need to respond. Our response to these events is informed by a number of realities:
● the horrific nature of the 7 October attack, which led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people,
including 695 Israeli citizens (36 of whom were children), and the taking of approximately 250 civilian
and military hostages;
● the scale and nature of the Israeli response, which has included attacks on hospitals, schools,
mosques and churches, has already led to the deaths of more than 32,000 Palestinian residents of
Gaza (including over 13,000 children), and has inflicted catastrophic and ongoing damage on the
infrastructure and systems which residents of Gaza rely upon for power, water, food and basic
medical assistance;
● the long history of dispersal and recurring persecution that has been endured by the Jewish people
for two thousand years, in many cases under rulers who professed Christian faith, and the attempted
genocide of the Nazi Holocaust;
● the painful experience of dispossession, discrimination and violence that has been suffered by the
Palestinian people for more than three-quarters of a century, including the massacres and land-
seizures of 1948, the Israeli occupation of UN-declared Palestinian territories since 1967, the blockade
imposed on the Gaza strip since 2007, and the growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied
Palestinian territories;
● the terror and insecurity that Israeli citizens experience as a consequence of the various forms of
Palestinian resistance that have involved the targeting of civilian victims;
● the message of the Torah and the Prophets, contained within the Hebrew Scriptures (which also form
the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), which includes repeated commands to the people of God to
defend the cause of the vulnerable, and to provide safe haven for refugees and justice for non-
Israelite residents in the land.
● the words of Jesus, which echo the commands of the Torah and the Prophets and pronounce a
blessing on those who hunger and thirst for justice and are active in the pursuit of peace.
In view of these realities, we call on the Australian government to:
● urgently advocate for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, including the cessation of
hostilities on the part of the Israeli Defence Forces, Hamas, and all other militant groups that have
been involved in the conflict, the return of all hostages and political prisoners currently held by Hamas
and the Israeli government, and immediate and secure access to humanitarian aid and relief;
● appeal to the governments of our allies, including the United States of America, to adopt a similar
stance and to cease providing military assistance of any kind to parties actively engaged in the
● contribute generously to cooperative international efforts to provide humanitarian aid to civilian
victims of the conflict and prepare for the rebuilding of Gaza after the cessation of hostilities;
● advocate for a durable and just settlement in Israel and Palestine, that will allow for the peaceful
coexistence of the Palestinian and Israeli people, within secure and internationally recognised
borders, and will include a just regime of repatriation or reparations for all those who have been
forced from their homes by this conflict and those which preceded it.
In signing this letter we do not presume to speak for all members of the organisations in which we serve
as leaders, or to represent the viewpoints stated above as the official position of those organisations, but
rather to give expression to our own deeply-held personal convictions.
Please be assured of our continued prayer for peace in the region, and for wisdom for and success for those who strive for it.

List of leaders signing the letter

Revd Ian Altman, State Director/CEO, Scripture Union NSW
Rev Professor Vicky Balabanski, Principal, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, University of Divinity
Rt Revd Dr Paul Barker, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Mr Geoff Batkin AM, Chair, UnitingCare Australia
Revd Mark Battison, Chair, Friends of Sabeel Australia
Associate Professor Liz Boase, Dean of the School of Graduate Research, University of Divinity
Rt Revd Dr Mat Brain, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Bendigo
Revd Daniel Bullock, Director of Mission and Ministries, Baptist Union of Victoria
Mr Elijah Buol OAM, Chief Executive Officer, Act for Peace
Revd David Burke, Minister, Presbyterian Church of Australia
Dr Trevor Cairney, Former Master, New College UNSW, Anglican Diocese of Sydney
Revd Dr David Cohen, Director of Research and Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Language, Morling College
Rt Revd Dr Richard Condie, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Tasmania
Very Revd Naomi Cooke, Dean, Grafton Cathedral
Very Revd Dr Doru Costache, Associate Professor, Sydney College of Divinity
Revd Tim Costello, Executive Director, Micah Australia
Very Revd Darryl Coton, Dean of Bunbury, Anglican Diocese of Bunbury
Rt Revd Dr Ian Couts, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Bunbury
Sister Anne Dalton, Acting Province Leader, Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Australia –
Aeotearoa/New Zealand
Mr Mat Darvas, National Director, Micah Australia
Revd Dr Allan Demond, Senior Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church
Dr Andrew Dunstan, Lecturer, Morling College
Very Revd Elizabeth Dyke, Dean, Anglican Diocese of Bendigo
Very Revd Lachlan Edwards, Dean, Anglican Diocese of North West Australia
Mr Daz Farrell, Executive Ministry Director, Churches of Christ NSW & ACT
Rt Revd Denise Ferguson, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Adelaide
Revd David Fotheringham, Moderator, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
Revd Dr Peter Francis, Principal, Malyon Theological College
Rev Dr Mike Frost, Director, Tinsley Institute, Morling College
Dr Armen Gakavian, Associate Director, Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society
Fr Daniel Ghabrial, Vicar General, Coptic Orthodox Church Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions
Revd Dr Simon Gillham, Vice Principal, Head of Mission, Moore Theological College
Dr Sureka Goringe, National Director, UnitingWorld
Most Revd Jeremy Greaves, Archbishop, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane
Mr James Harris, Director of Strategic Projects, NAYBA Australia
Rt Revd Dr Tim Harris, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Adelaide
Rev Dr Tania Harris, Global Director, God Conversations
Rt Revd Dr Murray Harvey, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Gration
Major Kim Haworth, Divisional Commander, NSW/ACT Division, The Salvation Army Australia
Very Rev Dr Peter A. L. Hill, Principal, Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Institute
Revd Sharon Hollis, President, Uniting Church in Australia, Assembly
Very Revd Richard Humphrey, Dean, Anglican Diocese of Tasmania
Mr John Hunt, Director, ACCI
Rev Associate Professor Darrell Jackson, Interim Principal, Whitley College
Rt Revd Jeremy James, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Willochra
Revd Dr Michael P Jensen, Rector, St Mark’s Darling Point, Sydney
Dr Paul Jones, Principal, Trinity College Queensland (Uniting Church in Australia, Qld, Synod)
Rt Revd Dr Chris Jones, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Tasmania and CEO, Anglicare Tasmania
Rt Revd Dr Keith Joseph, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of North Queensland
Ms Gayle Kent, Vice-Principal (Students & Community), Morling College
Rt Revd Donald Kirk, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Riverina
Ms Jo Knight, Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Overseas Aid
Mr John Lamerton, CEO, Australian Churches of Christ Global Mission Partners
Revd Melissa Lipset, Chief Executive Officer, Baptist World Aid Australia
Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, Dean of Melbourne, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Mr Nic Mackay, National Director, NAYBA Australia
Mrs Christine Mao, Chaplaincy Lecturer, Morling College
Sr Catherine McCahill, Congregational Leader, Sisters of the Good Samaritan
Ms Jill McGilvray, Chair, Langham Partnership Australia
Mr Jarrod McKenna, Pastor, Steeple Church
Rt Revd Chris McLeod, National Aboriginal Bishop, Anglican Church of Australia
Rev Dr Gary Millar, Principal, Queensland Theological College
Rev Dr Raymond Minniecon, Honorary Minister, Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries
Rev Dr Chris Monaghan CP, President, Yarra Theological Union
Revd Bruce Moore, Moderator, Uniting Church in Australia Qld Synod
Sister Carmel Moore, RSJ, Sister of St Joseph Lochinvar
Revd Peter Morel, Moderator, Uniting Church Synod of South Australia
Mr Gershon Nimbalker, National Director, Common Grace
Rt Revd Darrell Parker, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of North West Australia
Revd Dr Tim Patrick, Principal, Bible College of South Australia
Professor Anne Patel-Gray, Head of the School of Indigenous Studies, University of Divinity
Dr Lloyd Porter, Campus Director (WA) and Assoc. Dean of Bible & Theology, Morling College
Revd Dr Brian Powell, Former Vice-Principal, Morling College
Revd Dr Megan Powell du Toit, Senior Pastor , Rouse Hill Baptist Church
Revd Dr Gordon Preece, Director, Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society
Ms Helen Rainger, President, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network
Rev Dr John Reid, Retired minister and lecturer, Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT
Ms Tara Reid, Chair Transform Aid International, Chair Baptist World Aid
Revd Dr Joan Riley, Principal, St Barnabas College, University of Divinity
Rt Revd Sonia Roulston, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Newcastle
Rt Revd John Roundhill, Assistant Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Southern Queensland
Revd Dr Andrew Shead, Head of Old Testament and Hebrew, Moore Theological College
Professor Peter Sherlock, Vice-Chancellor, University of Divinity
Revd Dr Peta Sherlock, former Dean, Anglican Diocese of Bendigo
Revd Dr Charles Sherlock AM, Anglican theologian
Rt Revd Dr Mark Short, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn
Dr Tim Silberman, Lecturer, Sydney Missionary and Bible College
Revd Dr Andrew Sloane, Lecturer, Morling College
Mrs Gillean Smiley, CEO, Langham Partnership Australia
Most Revd Geoff Smith, Primate, Anglican Church of Australia
Dr Scot Smith, Dean of Education, Morling College
Ven Tiffany Sparks, Diocesan Archdeacon, Anglican Diocese of Grafton
Revd Dr David Starling, Vice-Principal (Academic), Morling College
Dr Nicole Starling, Lecturer and Academic Dean, Morling College
Dr Audrey Statham, Lecturer, Yarra Theological Union
Very Revd Keren Terpstra, Dean, Anglican Diocese of Gippsland
Revd Canon Dr Mark Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College
Dr Will Timmins, Theological researcher and writer
Ms Deborah Upton, Chair, Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society
Rt Revd Cameron Venables, Regional Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Brisbane
Rev Dr Peter Walker, Principal, United Theological College
Mrs Margaret Welch, Dean of Counselling, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care, Morling College
Rev Associate Professor Robyn Whitaker, Acting Principal, Pilgrim Theological College
Rev Dr Raewynne J. Whiteley, Warden, Wollaston Theological College
Revd Mark Wilson, National Ministries Director, Australian Baptist Ministries
Revd Dr Sean Winter, Principal, Pilgrim Theological College
Dr Luke Wisley, Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, Bible College of South Australia

Image: Bombed street in Gaza, October 2023. Image Credit: UNWRA