January 28, 2008

As the growing humanitarian crisis continues in the Gaza Strip, interfaith leaders in Southern California held a press conference and a vigil to call for an end to the collective punishment of 1.5 million residents. Interfaith leaders highlighted the importance of social justice and its centrality to Abrahamic faith traditions.

"Violence done in the name of Islam and Judaism is a failure of spirituality," said Rabbi Niel Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Sholom. "I can not believe and will not believe that in Judaism in its deepest sense, there is any justification for denial for fuel, power, food and medicine."

The Gaza Strip suffers from skyrocketing unemployment and poverty, and lacks medicine, fuel, electricity, food and other essential commodities. It is virtually cut off from the rest of the world.

"People of religion should rise above tribalism that they feel they belong to and consider ourselves as people of God," said MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hathout. "We need to have the courage to speak out for justice without being intimidated by any group or power."

The only doctrine that can mitigate Israel's occupation and provide a path for Palestinians and Israelis to emerge from this bloody conflict is international humanitarian law.

"This is not a political issue; it is a human issue," said Bishop Steve Gilliland, who lived in East Jerusalem. "I appeal that you let the politicians know about the suffering and immoral treatment of the Palestinian people."

We call on our government to take their quest for peace in the area seriously or declare to the world that we are hats off the issue.

We echo the statement issued recently by the United Nations, which criticized Israel for the developments in Gaza stressing that while the Palestinian rocket attacks on civilians are wrong, Israel's response "cannot be a retaliation."

Also, present at the press conference were Lydia Lopez of the Episcopal Archdioces of Los Angeles and Grace Dyrness of the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.

During the vigil, leaders from Kinder USA and the Palestine Children's Relief Fund discussed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the need for immediate assistance. They also, challenged people to continue working on this issue and bringing light to the suffering among civilians in the Gaza Strip by speaking up in their communities.

We encourage you to sign the "Interfaith Call to Stop Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza" now.

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