|United Methodists look to assist civilians in Gaza|
Palestinians in Gaza City congregate near the site of a medical clinic destroyed
Jan. 10 by Israeli missiles. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Department
of Services to Palestinian Refugees.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Jan. 12, 2009
United Methodists are trying to assist with the ongoing need for aid to civilians caught in the war zone of the Gaza Strip.
They also are concerned, with other humanitarian organizations,
about the effect the ongoing confrontation between the Israeli military
and Hamas-led Palestinian government is having on medical care in Gaza.
The Rev. Alex Awad, a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
missionary based at Bethlehem Bible College, told United Methodist News
Service the college has five students from the Gaza Strip.
The clinic was run by the Department of Services to Palestinian
Refugees, an Advance project of The United Methodist Church. A UMNS
photo courtesy of the Department of Services to
“We have also been in direct touch with friends and relatives in
Gaza,” he wrote in a Jan. 12 e-mail message. “What they tell us is all
the same: They have no food, no water, no electricity and they are
afraid for their lives.”
Since Dec. 27, nearly 900 people have been killed, Palestinian
Health Ministry officials say. The Israeli military reports 13 losses.
The Israeli government has escalated its efforts in recent days in
response to continued rocket fire into southern Israel from Hamas
territory. The fighting continues on both sides, despite the call of
the U.N. Security Council for an immediate cease-fire.
According to news reports, the Israeli military said it was allowing more than 160 truckloads of aid into Gaza on Jan. 12.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with Action by
Churches Together and Muslim Aid to provide humanitarian assistance in
Gaza, according to Melissa Crutchfield, head of international disaster
relief. “We’re monitoring closely the situation on the ground,” she
The agency already has contributed to ACT’s previous appeal for
general humanitarian aid to Gaza and is waiting for a revised appeal on
this emergency, she explained.
Crutchfield also expects to get approval soon from UMCOR directors
to contribute to the efforts of Muslim Aid, an UMCOR partner, which has
access in a different part of the Gaza Strip. “That’s going to allow us
to expand our reach,” she said.
Medical clinic destroyed
Damage to medical facilities in Gaza has become a major concern. On
Jan. 10, for example, a Christian-run clinic in Gaza City supported by
ACT was destroyed. Five days earlier, three clearly-marked mobile
health clinics – supported by DanChurchAid, another ACT partner – also
were destroyed in an Israeli air strike.
David Wildman, a Board of Global Ministries executive, received an
e-mail from the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees, an
independent organization affiliated with the Middle East Council of
Churches, informing him that Israeli missiles have hit the clinic in
Al-Shuja’ia, destroying the facility and all its contents. There were
“Minutes before the missile hit the building which hosts the clinic,
the Israeli Air Force fired a warning missile next to it, forcing all
residents of the building and the adjacent buildings to flee the area,”
Zack Sabella of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees
reported. “A short while after, the army directly hit the building and
razed it completely.”
Destroyed mobile health clinics lay on the edge of a bomb crater following an Israeli air strike on Gaza on Jan. 5.
A UMNS photo courtesy of
DanChurchAid, ACT International.
It is believed the Israelis may have been targeting the owner of the three-story building, who was residing on its upper floors.
The clinic was one of three in the Gaza strip, said Wildman, who
last met personally with staff at the Department of Services for
Palestinian Refugees in February 2008. “We (United Methodist Church)
have supported the DSPR in some form or another for decades,” he added.
“These clinics have been incredibly effective in lowering health
complications for both mothers and children in Gaza. Now, all that is
going to be set back.”
The destroyed clinic served one of the poorest neighborhoods in Gaza
City and staff see 40 patients a day, six days a week. “With the air
strikes that started on Dec. 27, they shifted to being a primary care
facility for people who had been wounded,” he said.
Israel has imposed severe restrictions on medical aid ever since
Hamas was officially installed as the majority party in the Palestinian
Legislative Council in March 2006, Wildman said. He noted the current
conflict has further limited options for Palestinian civilians.
For example, the destroyed clinic was the source of primary care for
many pregnant women in that area, he said. “If a child gets a fever
now, the family is on their own. Those are the hidden casualties when
things like this happen.”
ACT sends supplies
ACT was hopeful that it would be able to get supplies into Gaza on
Jan. 12. Those supplies include 12,000 cartons of high-protein
biscuits, 20,300 liters of fortified milk, blankets and quilts, and
close to $68,000 worth of medical supplies. The delivery across the
border into Gaza is coordinated through the United Nations, which is
responsible for the transport.
Church World Service -- led by the Rev. John McCullough, a United
Methodist pastor – also is working with ACT on the humanitarian
response in Gaza.
hrough its “Speak Out” advocacy network, the ecumenical humanitarian
group is asking Americans to “urge members of Congress to support
prompt U.S. diplomatic action to help achieve an immediate cease-fire
and address the Gaza humanitarian situation.”
CWS backs a recommendation from the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees to the governments of Israel and Egypt to
allow civilians to leave Gaza safely and find refuge elsewhere.
The Rev. W. Douglas Mills of the United Methodist Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns said his agency was
distraught over the loss of human life and property destruction in
Gaza, but “also worried by the rhetoric from both sides claiming that
there can be no dialogue.”
“I believe that The United Methodist Church will stand firm in its
desire for peace in the Middle East and firm in our call for a solution
which protects those who are oppressed. We will continue to give
political support to the state of Israel and its security and continue
to call for a safe place where Palestinians also can live and work with
security,” he said.
United Methodists can contribute to humanitarian assistance in Gaza
in several ways. Donations can be made to “Middle East Emergency, UMCOR
Advance #601740” by placing checks in church collection plates; going
and clicking on “Gaza Crisis”; calling (888) 252-6174; or mailing a
check to Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068.
Donations also can be made through the Advance to assist the
Department of Services for Palestinian Refugees. Information is
In cooperation with its Shepherd Society and others, Bethlehem Bible
College is collecting funds to help the people of Gaza. The Baptist
Church in Gaza will do the actual distribution of supplies. Giving
information to the Shepherd Society can be found online.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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