European Christians stand firm behind Israel
After the startling attacks on Israel, European Christians unite in support of the country.
Since Saturday, Israel has been "at war" with the Palestinian terror group Hamas. The Jewish state was surprised by a series of severe attacks in the early morning. Hundreds of Israelis were killed or kidnapped, and the fighting is still ongoing.
Europeans from the whole continent united almost immediately behind Israel. Churches called for prayer, and private believers expressed themselves on social media.
In Norway, the Christian Council spoke about "terrorism", Secretary General Erhard Hermansen says to Dagen. "As Christian churches, we must constantly pray for a peaceful and just solution to the conflicts in the area. We pray for peace in Israel and Palestine", Hermansen says.
French Evangelicals also speak up for Israel. The National Council of Evangelicals of France (CNEF) expresses “its solidarity with the people of Israel.” The Council calls the French society to condemn the "violence and murder that nothing justifies."
Christian media analyse the situation in their editorials. The Danish Kristeligt Dagblad argues that Hamas is setting its own destruction. The editors-in-chief are certain: "The unhappy inhabitants of the Gaza Strip will never get a better life as long as they accept being ruled by a terrorist organisation."
The comment also points out that it was the Palestinian population itself which voted Hamas into power. However, the newspaper believes that it should be clear to residents of Gaza "that Hamas is the guarantee that their tragedy will not end."
Morning of terror
Dagen believes that the consequences of the Hamas attacks will be massive. "The Jewish state will not remain the same after the "morning of terror" when Hamas attacked an unprepared Israel", the newspaper states in a comment.
The German Christian press agency Idea also calls for prayer and clear support for Israel. "The shameful manoeuvring that many church leaders use to avoid stating the obvious must end. The fundamental evil in the so-called Middle East conflict is not this or that measure by the Israeli government but the wild hatred that Palestinian propaganda has been fomenting for decades. Current events in the Holy Land are its bloody fruits."
The Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad also calls for unconditional support for Israel. "Islamic extremism has shown its real face", the daily comment states. The Reformatorisch Dagblad is very clear: "Western countries must now stand united behind Israel. The time of doubting and keeping both parties satisfied is definitively over. Israel deserves unconditional support."
The Nederlands Dagblad stresses that there is also another way of responding to the conflict. "A prayer for the end of violence is not moralistic or cowardly, but Biblical."
The comment points out that the war in the Middle East spills over on social media. "And it is disappointing that many Christians join these discussions wholeheartedly", it states. Anyone who does not want to voice support for Israel is seen as a coward or a friend of the Palestinians, the Nederlands Dagblad illustrates.
However, it points out that something else is needed right now: "Put your smartphone away, close your laptop, close your eyes and fold your hands."
The Dutch politician Pieter Grinswis (MP of the Christian Union party) is outraged that the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague, among others, refuse to fly the Israeli flag. Some of them fly their own city flag. Grinwis does not understand these actions, he says to CVandaag. Amsterdam was one of the first cities to announce that it would raise the Israeli flag; Prime Minister Rutte followed with the announcement that he would order that for the government buildings. Grinwis: "Every municipality, province or whoever, who flies another flag than the Israeli after the unforgivable terror and barbarity of Hamas terrorists, don't do it. Neutrality concerning barbarity and hatred does not exist, just solidarity or cowardness."
Pastor Marten Visser says to be ashamed that his church denomination, the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) calls for prayer for both Jews and Palestinians. "I think that, besides this inclusive text, there may also be prayer for peace for Jerusalem", his colleague Bram Kunz responded to the text.
Leaders of all Christian political parties in the Netherlands expressed "total support" for Israel.
Christians in Germany condemn the attacks, Idea reports. The organisation Christen an der Seite Israels speaks of “the most brutal terror.” The organisation is happy with the support of the German authorities for the country. “Germany has a moral obligation to support, not criticise, Israeli defence efforts.”
The German Protestant Church (EKD) stands behind Israel, PRO writes. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel, whose country we visited just a few days ago", Annette Kurschus, EKD chairwoman, declares.
Georg Bätzing, from the Catholic German Bishops' Conference, tweeted about the "dangerous escalation."
Rita Famos from the Protestant Reformed Church of Switzerland speaks to Ref.ch about an “inhuman act of terrorism.” She hopes that the bloodshed will soon stop and "that the two parties will find their way back to the negotiating table with a view to a two-state solution."
The World Council of Churches calls for a cease-fire and immediate de-escalation of the conflict, Ref.ch writes. General Secretary Jerry Pillay said to be "deeply concerned about the impending danger of a worsening conflict and the inevitable tragic consequences for the people of the region, Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Pope Francis calls for an end to the violence in Israel. "Terrorism and war do not solve problems, but lead to more suffering and the death of innocent civilians", he said on Sunday. "War is only a defeat", he added.
Austrian bishops agree with the Pope, Religion.orf writes. Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, wrote on X that he hopes for "a stable, just peace for all residents of the Holy Land." In addition, he calls for prayer.
Italian bishops call for "the prompt release of the hostages", the Presidency of the CEI states, as reported by Avennire. The bishops also said that they "express closeness and solidarity to all those who, once again, suffer from violence and live in terror and "anguish."
Several groups of European visitors are left stranded in Israel as flights are cancelled. A group of Norwegian tourists met the Israeli mayor of Sderot, near Gaza, last week. Two days later, he was killed.
Tourist Grethe Karlsen is one of the stranded, Dagen reports. “We have been told to stay at the hotel”, she says.
Two days earlier, she and the group met the mayor of Sderot, who told them how difficult it was to live so close to Gaza. Up to 40 per cent of young people receive psychiatric treatments, he had told them. On Saturday, he was killed. "That feels very close", says Karlsen. She does not know when she will be able to return home.
A group of Lithuanian citizens suffers the same fate. However, they will be repatriated by an alternative flight from Israel. Priest Rolandas Bičkauskas is one of the forty pilgrims. He was supposed to travel home on Sunday, but the schedule changed. The priest is very positive about the travel organisation but believes that the government of Lithuania should do more to protect its citizens.
Norwegian pastor Eyvind Volle and his wife, Siv Anita, live in Tel Aviv. They work for the organisation Norwegian Israel Mission and just received 14 high school students from Norway when the attack took place, Dagen writes. "We heard the flight alarm, got up and got everyone who lives in the house down into the bomb room", Volle says to Dagen. Instead of the Sabbath service he planned for the day, he had a "short house service in the bomb room instead".
The Dutch pastor Maarten Dekker calls the images from the attacks horrible. He lives in Northern Israel. "We heard from people, sometimes ten in a room, who were killed by Hamas."
On Sunday, he preached for a small group of people because gatherings with more than fifty people were forbidden by the government, the pastor tells the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad.
A group of Dutch high school students planned to visit his congregation but could not reach the town, Dekker says. "They stay in Tiberias because it is too dangerous to travel through the Arabic town of Kfar Kana. We went to them in the afternoon." At the same time, he points upwards. "Our comfort is that we are safe under the shadow of His wings, whatever may happen."
In a church in Jerusalem, Norwegians gathered for prayer and lit candles. Priest Leif Magne Helgesen, together with a Danish and a Norwegian priest, had planned a church service in the old city. Due to the unrest, they cancelled it but still decided to keep the church open. Almost 30 people came to the service, Helgesen tells Vart Land. The seaman's chaplain only arrived in Israel a week ago.
"We don't believe in war", he says to Vart Land. "As Christians, we believe in life, both the life to come, but also the life we live today."
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