Statement on the Current Crisis
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) joins the chorus of voices urging an immediate and total ceasefire, the admittance of humanitarian aid, and the restoration of power and water to Gaza to prevent the further staggering loss of human life that is inevitable under the current conditions. We support the call from the United Nations for the evacuation order to be rescinded, warning it will have “devastating humanitarian consequences." We join a wide range of faith-based, non-governmental, and humanitarian organizations across the globe in condemning the government of Israel’s ongoing bombardment, “total siege,” and forced displacement through an evacuation order of more than 1.1 million residents of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ atrocious October 7 attacks. We do so in line with our 2002 Action of Immediate Witness, “Toward Peace and Justice in the Middle East.”
To address the urgent humanitarian crisis in Israel and Gaza, and to prevent further catastrophic loss of life, the UUA reiterates, as a signatory of the October 12 statement from Churches for Middle East Peace, a call for:
- Ceasefire, de-escalation, and restraint by all sides
- All parties to abide by the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions and customary international law
- Prioritizing steps to secure the immediate release of hostages and ensure international protection for civilians
The UUA condemns the horrific terror attacks from Hamas on Israeli civilians, and the taking of innocent hostages. There can never be justification for such an attack.
The UUA condemns the harm to innocent civilians caused by the Israeli government’s retaliation against Gaza, and implores the Israeli government to do all it can to protect innocent civilian life and avoid further escalating military action.
We call on Unitarian Universalists to continue to witness against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and to side with love in this moment by urging their elected officials to leverage the considerable power of the US government to push for an immediate and humane resolution to the crisis in Gaza, including total ceasefire, humanitarian aid access, and rescinding the evacuation order.
Background and Context
Unitarian Universalism and the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
Unitarian Universalists, with over 1000 liberal religious congregations in the United States and beyond, covenant to promote core values and principles, which include support for a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. As UUs, we affirm our mutual humanity and interdependence, and join with interfaith and human rights groups calling for respect of international law and protection of civilians. We declare that when vengeance repays vengeance, it becomes an escalating and inescapable cycle of violence.
Within our UU faith communities, we have members who come from Jewish and Muslim traditions, and members who have direct ties to the Middle East. The unspeakable acts of violence from the past few weeks have been felt directly and personally by many in our congregations. We pray for the safety of those who remain in harm’s way, and mourn those whose lives have been lost in this most recent wave of bloodshed.
Amid this pain and grief, our faith community has historically sought to embrace the full nuance and complexity of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We believe that a lasting peaceful solution to this conflict which has claimed so many lives must be rooted in justice and humanitarian principles. We are founding members for Churches for Middle East Peace, alongside other religious groups with historical roots in the Christian tradition.
Statements by the UUA General Assembly
As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to making decisions and mutual commitments through a democratic process. Since our founding in 1961, the UUA’s General Assembly, made up of delegates from our member congregations, has consistently affirmed the following principles related to human rights and international law:
- A fundamental commitment to peaceful responses and addressing root causes of conflict (1979 General Resolution; 2010 Statement of Conscience)
- Abiding by the Geneva Conventions, establishing the rights and protections of civilians in wartime (Cited in Resolutions from 1964, 1968, and 2004 - 2009)
- Accountability for world leaders who commit crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and genocide (2002 Resolution; 2007 Resolution; 2009 Resolution)
- Avoiding military confrontations and pursuing diplomatic resolution (1964 Statement on Vietnam; 2008 Statement on Iran)
- Pushing for lasting peace agreements and an end to armed conflict (1974 Resolution on Vietnam; 2006 and 2007 Resolutions on Iraq)
- Respecting the role of the United Nations, cited in dozens of resolutions
To quote from the UUA’s 2010 Statement of Conscience on Creating Peace:
“Our faith calls us to create peace, yet we confess that we have not done all we could to prevent the spread of armed conflict throughout the world. At times we have lacked the courage to speak and act against violence and injustice; at times we have lacked the creativity to speak and act in constructive ways; at times we have condemned the violence of others without acknowledging our own complicity in violence. We affirm a responsibility to speak truth to power, especially when unjust power is exercised by our own nation. Too often we have allowed our disagreements to distract us from all that we can do together… [we are charged] to engage with more depth, persistence, and creativity in the complex task of creating peace.”
Our General Assembly has also adopted a number of statements in the past forty years about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (1982 General Resolution; 1986 Resolution; 1990 Resolution; 2002 Action of Immediate Witness), which have affirmed:
- The legitimacy and integrity of the state of Israel
- Condemnation of “all acts of terror, disproportionate reprisal and attacks on civilian populations” and “all suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians”
- Condemnation of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism
- Call for Israel to honor international humanitarian law in occupied Palestinian territories, to end Israeli occupation and settlements, and to support Palestinian self-determination
- Support for a lasting and comprehensive peace process which results in a two-state solution
A Conflict Rooted in Trauma
As UUs, we recognize how much of the current conflict is rooted in the trauma of oppressed peoples. This trauma ripples through generations, and destabilizes the entire region. The history of trauma in this conflict predates the founding of Israel, going back generations through colonialism and the Holocaust.
There is an urgent need to be in solidarity right now with Jewish people in our communities who feel the rising tide of anti-Semitism as an existential threat. We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.
Islamophobia is also a pernicious and ongoing force in the United States, and Muslims in our communities continue to be targets of violence and vitriol. We recognize that decades of brutal Israeli occupation has contributed to despair and rage across the Muslim world, and any further escalation of occupation could have dire and lasting consequences.
We must further recognize how interests and forces within the US have helped shape the current conflict. American Christian Zionists have driven US policy towards Israel since its founding, based on their own religious and political goals to protect business and oil interests in the Middle East and to prepare for, in their view, a Second Coming of the Messiah. This includes Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel lobby group in the US with over 10 million members, who exercises significant influence over conservative political leaders in the US.
Unitarian Universalists claim a liberal religious tradition that is rooted in pluralism, and remains in fundamental opposition to religious and racial supremacy. We are committed to fighting all forms of racial and religious nationalism at home and abroad. We declare that discussions about this conflict must center the human rights of Israelis and Palestinians.
In the words of our President Rev. Sofía Betancourt, Ph.D.: “We are one global family living tenuously on the same human-impacted Earth. Let us center ourselves in justice as we call for peace.”
Our role as a people of faith is to be clear about our values and to center love for our siblings, especially in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. We reckon with evil as a manifestation of systemic oppression, and the violence we can do to one another in close relationship. We commit ourselves to do all we can to support those who are closest to the violence as we continue to hold hope for a peaceful future. And we remain dedicated to doing what we can to be advocates for safety and wellbeing in every part of the world.