A Statement on Palestine

From WSUU Minister, Board of Trustees and Racial Justice Change Team

Dear members of the Westside UU Community,

As world leaders negotiate for a ceasefire deal between Hamas and the Israeli government, we wanted to send this note of care to you all. Over the past 8 months, we citizens of the world have witnessed unprecedented levels of violence and destruction: the brutal attack that killed over 1,000 people in Israel on October 7, and the more than 36,000 people killed in Palestine since. The numbers are staggering.

These statistics, along with personal stories and images from this war, haunt our lives daily. We hear that 60% of the hospitals in Gaza have been destroyed or can no longer operate, as have 60% of water and sewage facilities. In Northern Gaza, 70% of buildings and 90% of agricultural land have been razed, constituting an environmental disaster on top of the humanitarian one. 85% of the population has been displaced. In the past month, over a two-day period, reports indicated that more than 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military activity, including civilians in refugee camps, and paramedics. We include these numbers to remind us of what is at stake, how much has already been lost since the Hamas attacks on October 7, to say nothing of the destruction caused by decades of conflict in the region.

We write this letter to acknowledge the horror and the grief of these times, and their impact on our spirits. Many of us, in personal check ins and other spaces in our community, have expressed the heaviness and sense of powerlessness we feel. Some among us have deeply considered how to show up for this moment, and have put in time and energy to lift their voices in service of peace and liberation. While many of us may feel disempowered, we remember that collective action is power. This Spring’s student uprising in our country (and in our city) inspired the world, showing us bravery in the face of state violence enacted through militarized policing. As taxpayers in this country, and as people of faith who care for humanity, we feel responsibility. In this interconnected web that we are a part of, we feel tugged by the struggle of all who are enduring violence.

We congregational leaders encourage you to be a witness, to let yourself feel the grief of these times in your bodies. And then, let yourself answer the calls to action that feel right for you. There are many ways to lend your voice to peace and liberation, many communities building power much stronger than any one of us could on our own. 

Just this past weekend, Unitarian Universalists from around the world will gather virtually for our annual General Assembly. Among other business items, delegates voted to affirm statements for Immediate Witness to the violence in Israel and Palestine, and further resources for congregations will likely emerge from this process.

For now, we encourage you to turn to recent statements from the UUA Administration, which affirm that “the intentional inflicting of suffering and death upon children and civilians in Gaza is a moral catastrophe that our faith demands we condemn and resist” and affirm the right of all Israelis and Palestinians to “secure real and lasting safety.” These statements uplift the inherent worth and dignity of all human lives, offer background on UU involvement in advocating for peace, and links to further reading.

In love and peace, and dreams for the Beloved Community,

Rev. Carter Smith

Westside Board of Trustees

Westside Racial Justice Change Team

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