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Interfaithfully Speaking: Expressing our condolences

by Thom Johnson, retired Lutheran pastor

We, the current and active members of the Inland Valley Working Group for Mideast Peace, express our deepest condolences to the family of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh upon her recent sudden and tragic demise during an Israeli military action in the Jenin refugee camp. We also express our condolences to her co-workers at Al-Jazeera, and to the worldwide Palestinian community for whom her brave career was a profound example of professionalism under the most challenging of circumstances. Shireen was a Christian who hailed from Bethlehem. She is one of many Palestinian journalists who have lost their lives during Israeli military or police operations affecting the Palestinian community. We also pray for a complete healing of the wounds suffered by Ali Al-Samudi, her producer.

Our group members hold differing world views and perspectives, though we all seek a just and lasting peace for Israel and Palestine. For many, Israeli military operations and a generally heavy-handed approach against a restive Palestinian population does not hold any political or social legitimacy. For others, the challenges facing Israeli residents in an environment often hostile to the state’s national existence is an ever-present context informing their point of view. Still others hold neither of those views. The tragic murder of this innocent journalist once again sadly highlights the continuing intractable nature of the overall Israeli/Palestinian conflict and disheartens us as a group of Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and other faith group members who are part of our coalition.

We call out this atrocity and condemn Shireen’s murder as well as the brutal attempt to suppress her funeral procession; it fills us all with moral outrage. Just as the Jewish members of our group stand in solidarity with our Muslim members in condemning these actions, our Muslim members stand by our Jewish members in ensuring their safety and security, especially in the wake of rising worldwide antisemitism.

All who are residents in Palestine and in Israel are entitled to inhabit a safe and secure homeland. Moving that vision forward is our binding mission. As an interfaith coalition, we are committed to doing our part to close whatever divisions prevent acknowledging the pain experienced by American Muslims witnessing a disproportionate response from Israel to Palestinian grievances, and to understand the need for achieving a lasting sense of security for the worldwide Jewish community.

But today, we stand as one to condemn the death of Shireen Abu Akleh and demand that a full and independent investigation of the circumstances be undertaken immediately, that those responsible be identified, and that justice be served.

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