A vigil for Gaza was held in Reading town centre on Saturday 5th June organised by Reading Muslim Council with contributions from the Jewish Network for Palestine, Cordoba Foundation, Green Party, Slough PSC and Jewish Voices for Labour. Organisers estimate that around 250 people participated in the vigil while many people out shopping stopped to listen to the presentations. At the end of the vigil balloons were released in memory of each child killed in Gaza. I gave a short presentation (below) and also offered prayers for the bereaved and injured.
If you are like me, you have experienced a wide range of strong emotions processing the harrowing events in Gaza. Feelings of shock, grief, outrage, numbness, anger, helplessness can overwhelm. What can we do? At least three things:
When you experience trauma or bereavement what do you need most? Just someone to be with you. Not lots of words or explanations – just someone beside you. And that is why you are here. To show that the bereaved, the grieving and wounded people of Gaza are not ignored, they are not forgotten. Solidarity.
The most effective way to show our solidarity with the people of Gaza, and their brothers and sisters in the Occupied Territories is through advocacy. To speak out on their behalf. And the best way is through BDS – Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.
Martin Luther King once said, “Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding. It is a sword that heals.” BDS is indeed a proven non-violent weapon.
Desmond Tutu has said “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure. If apartheid ended, so can this occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.”
Many of us here today believe in an Almighty God who is merciful and just. Therefore, at this vigil, we cry out for justice, peace, freedom and security for Gaza and the people of Palestine.
The name Jerusalem means City of Peace. Psalm 122 reminds us to pray for everyone in Palestine to experience peace and security:
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May those who love you be secure.Gaza
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
God of Mercy, we remember all those who have been killed, maimed, and bereaved in Gaza; We pray for those who have had their future torn away from them; those whose lives are bleak, lacking opportunity, mobility and hope. We pray especially for the children and young people traumatised by a terror beyond their understanding or control and the right to be safe and secure in their own homes. God of mercy hear our prayer.
God of Justice, may those responsible for the killings in Gaza be identified, held accountable and swiftly brought to justice. We repent of our complicity of silence, the closing of our eyes to the needs and wellbeing of those suffering and our failure to reject the ways of violence, exploitation and injustice. God of justice hear our prayer.
God of Hope, you do not faint or grow weary. We pray that the ceasefire in Gaza will hold and that the international community will soon establish a just and lasting peace and an end to oppression in the Holy Land. Give us a vision of the future freed from suffering, exploitation and war. And the wisdom and strength to make that vision a reality, especially for the people of Gaza and Palestine.
God of mercy, God of justice, God of hope, please hear and answer our prayers. Amen.