11 June 2010

USPG Council expresses ‘shock and dismay’ at attack on Gaza aid flotilla

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town (left) with Irish delegates at the USPG conference in Swanwick: the Revd Ken Gibson, Kerry Giffin, Jan de Bruijn, Canon Patrick Comerford, and (in front) Linda Chambers de Bruijn; missing from the photograph is Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel and Ossory

Patrick Comerford

The Council of USPG (United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) – Anglicans in World Mission – agreed last night to sent a letter should be sent to the British Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague, expressing “shock and dismay at what happened last week when the Israeli naval forces stormed a Gaza-bound convoy carrying humanitarian aid in international waters, killing nine people and injuring many more.”

The resolution was proposed during the council meeting by the Revd Dr John Perumbalath of the Diocese of Rochester and a USPG Trustee. The letter is being sent by Canon Linda Ali, chair of the Trustees, on behalf of the Council of USPG.

The council also urged the Israeli Government “to release the journalists who are still detained by the Israeli army and return their equipment.”

In addition, the letter urges the Foreign Secretary “to bring all the pressure you can bear upon Israel to follow the UN proposal for a multinational and independent inquiry” into last week’s events.

The council associated itself with a statement on behalf of the World Council of Churches by the General Secretary of the WCC, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, “condemning the assault” on the Gaza-bound vessels.

In that letter, he condemned “the assault and killing of innocent people who were attempting to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, who have been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007.” He also called for the reparation of those detained by the Israeli army, the release of the impounded ships, and an end to the economic blockade of Gaza. “We further condemn the flagrant violation of international law by Israel in attacking and boarding a humanitarian convoy in international waters. We pray for all those who are affected by the attack, especially the bereaved families.”

Speaking in favour of this resolution, I pointed out the people on board the Irish-owned ship in the convoy included a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, and pacifists and people committed to using only nonviolent methods. I said that the Israeli action amounted to piracy on the high seas, and that it could not be defended in international law as Israeli has not declared war on Ireland and so has no right to attack an Irish-owned ship in international waters.

Taking a quiet break during the USPG conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Earlier in the evening, the General Secretary of Michael Doe, led a discussion about “building a sustainable future for USPG,” and members of the board of USPG Ireland had a fruitful meeting with the Primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town.

The annual conference of USPG enters its third and closing day at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, this morning. Our closing reflections are being led by the Revd Rachel Carnegie, International Development Secretary for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Makgoba is presiding at the closing Eucharist, according to the South African liturgy, and the preacher is Dr Evie Vernon, Director of the Selly Oak Centre for Mission Studies.

Looking up ... the Victorian roof of the former Fitzherbert Wright family house at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Canon Patrick Comerford is a member of the Council of USPG and a director of USPG Ireland

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