25 November 2014

Finding Advent signs of hope for
Gaza in the darkness of winter

Archbishop Michael Jackson and the Revd Ken Rue at the launch of the ‘Prepare a Place’ Advent Appeal this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Church House in Rathmines late this afternoon [25 November 2014] for the launch of the Advent Appeal, ‘Prepare a Place,’ in support of al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza.

The appeal, launched by Archbishop Michael Jackson, is the initiative of the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Council for Mission, in partnership with the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal, Us (the new name for USPG), and Friends of Sabeel.

The Revd Ken Rue, chair of the Council for Mission, explained this afternoon that this “non-political” and humanitarian appeal is the first step in a diocese-to-diocese link between Dublin and Glendalough and the Diocese of Jerusalem, a diocese with stretched resources that is trying to care for people in need.

Linda Chambers of Us, who has recently returned from a visit to Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, told us how the Gaza Strip is home to 1.8 million people, including 1.2 million Palestinian refugees in an area of 360 sq km, half the size of Co Louth.

Archbishop Jackson also introduced a prayer he has written for use throughout the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough to accompany this Advent appeal:

throughout human history you have heard the cry of your people
when they turn to you for help and healing, for merciful belonging and for new life.
Bless those who today tend the flames of witness
To your kindly presence in the Land of the Holy One.
Give grace and protection to the bishop, the clergy and people
in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and The Middle East
who heed your command to love God and neighbour with courage and generosity.
Bless those who in the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough
build partnership, solidarity and friendship with the peoples of the Middle East
at this time of harrowing and of hope.
We ask this in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

The launch was attended by members of the board and supporters of Us Ireland, representatives of the Council for Mission, the Bishops’ Appeal, and Friends of Sabeel, and clergy and ordinands from throughout Dublin and Glendalough.

They included the Revd Andrew McCroskery of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, who was one of “Bikers on a Mission” earlier this year, visiting every cathedral in the Church of Ireland to raise funds for Us-supported projects in Swaziland.

Outside, before the launch events began, there was a beautiful winter sunset behind the trees in the grounds of the Church of Ireland College of Education. In darkness, we can always find glimmers and signs of hope. For the people of Gaza, this Advent Appeal may be one of those small signs of hope.

The overwhelming needs in the Diocese of Jerusalem are:

• 1.8 million people affected in the Gaza Strip
• Over 2,000 fatalities, of whom 1,312 are civilians and 513 of these are children • Over 10,000 injured (2,877 children, 3,061 women)
• 520,000 displaced people housed in UN/government schools or with host families
• 1.5 million people not in shelters with no water or extremely restricted access to water
• 10,690 housing units destroyed or severely damaged
• 141 schools damaged
• 5 hospitals shut down
• 24 (at least) health facilities damaged
• 2–4 hours of electricity per day on average

Donations can be made to Bishops’ Appeal either by envelopes that are available in all parish churches or by electronic transfer to IBAN: IE BOFI 9000 1749 8394 99 BIC: BOFIIE2D (reference Gaza).

A winter sunset prior to the launch of the ‘Prepare a Place’ Advent Appeal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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