Religious Groups Condemn Middle-East Violence, Pray for Peace

mideast-violence-HEAD-smAmid tragedy and suffering in so many places around the world, people of faith had an intense week of prayer and activism. At the Vatican, Pope Francis highlighted the Middle East, Iraq, and Ukraine and led prayers for peace and reconciliation everywhere. Religious groups continued to raise concerns about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Christian, Muslim, and some Jewish groups issued new statements decrying the large number of Palestinian civilians killed and urging Israel to lift its longstanding blockade against Gaza. Many other Jewish groups and some Christians maintained their solidarity with Israel and accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields. They also condemned anti-Semitic attacks tied to anti-Israel protests in Europe. Faith-based relief groups denounced the humanitarian impact of the violence, especially on the children of Gaza. More than 120,000 Gazans have sought shelter in schools, medical centers, and churches, including a 12th-century Greek Orthodox church. Faith leaders across the spectrum called for a lasting ceasefire. In Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama said the violence is against the teachings of all major religions.