Archbishop of Wales seeks explanation for destruction of Gaza health clinic
The mobile dental clinic funded by the Church in Wales
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has written to the Israeli Ambassador to London today (TUES) asking why a church-run healthcare clinic was bombed in Gaza over the weekend.
The Shij'ia Family Health Care Centre in Gaza City, run by the Near East Council of Churches (NECC), was destroyed by direct Israeli missile fire on Saturday night. There are fears too that the mobile dental clinic, also run by the NECC but funded by people in Wales, was also destroyed.
A telephone warning was given to evacuate the building within 15 minutes; the building was evacuated quickly, just before a warning shot was fired. That was followed by a direct hit from missiles fired by an Israeli air-force jet. This completely destroyed the building and its contents, including hundreds of thousands of pounds of medical equipment. There were no injuries in the attack. Nor was any reason for the attack given.
Dr Morgan said, “We find it incomprehensible and tragic that any armed forces anywhere in the world would want to destroy such a building, let alone the State of Israel with all its historic memories of oppression and genocide.
“To hear the news that the only health facilities in this part of Gaza have been destroyed, leaving the population of that area without any medical facilities at all, is horrendous. It does raise questions about the credibility of Israel’s values and purposes.
“There were 10, 836 families registered at this Shij’ia Clinic. They have effectively been removed of any hope of medical provision and support. It provided ante and post natal care, a well baby clinic, basic laboratory tests for malnutrition and anaemia, a pharmacy and the mobile dental clinic which is funded by the Church in Wales. It is hard to understand why Israel would allow, let alone commission, an attack on a facility which provides support mostly to young babies and their mothers.
“We have no reason to believe that this building was producing or distributing arms or being used as a base or launch pad for rockets sent into Israel. If there is evidence to the contrary we would like to see it. We are perplexed and shocked at this attack and are looking for an explanation for it from the Israeli Ambassador. ”
The Archdeacon of Margam, the Ven Philip Morris, who co-ordinates the Church in Wales Jubilee Fund for the NECC mobile dental clinic, said, "This is devastating news; we can only be thankful that nobody was killed or injured in the attack. I have visited the Family Health Centre on many occasions; it is very clearly marked as a Health Centre, and it is very obvious what its work is. However, this means that the front-line emergency care can no longer be given in that area of Gaza City.”
On Friday, Dr Morgan called for an immediate ceasefire to the hostilities between Israel and Gaza.
He said, “I am very concerned about the people in Gaza, including those we in the Church in Wales have worked with through the mobile dental clinic we fund. Having visited Gaza twice over the past few years I have seen the appalling conditions in which the people there live in what they consider normal circumstances, with no proper homes, sanitation or means of escape. Their lives are now unbearable as they come under daily fire and are too scared to even leave their homes. We have heard that it has now become too dangerous for our clinic, which was being used as a frontline hospital dealing with casualties, to continue its work.
"It is tragic that there is so much violence in an area known as the Holy Land. I believe the God in whose name these nations fight sheds tears at the violence and hatred show by both sides.
"It is time for the fighting to stop – enough children have died and enough homes have been destroyed and it is immoral for the world to stand by and do nothing. While understanding how Israel feels, surrounded as it is by Arab nations, the fact is that it is the stronger nation, both militarily and economically. As such, it needs to heed the UN resolution and Red Cross requests for it to stop the bombardments and for there to be a ceasefire. The scale of its attacks are disproportionate and likely to be counter productive, stirring up yet more hatred to be perpetuated by yet another generation of angry people.
"Frontline medical services in Gaza, such as the mobile dental clinic, are going to need urgent practical help once they are able to start working again which is why we are appealing for money for that fund. However, it is up to all of us who put our faith in God to work and pray for lasting peace and understanding in the area.”
You can donate to the Church in Wales fund for the mobile dental clinic by sending money or cheques payable to the Church in Wales Jubilee Fund, 39, Cathedral Rd, Cardiff, CF11 9XF
For more information, please contact: Anna Morrell (see end)
The Shij'ia Family Healthcare Centre which was bombed on Saturday, serves a poor community of Gaza City of about 70,000 people where (prior to Jan 09) existing provision of medical services are at a low level. It provided ante- and post natal care, well-baby clinic, basic laboratory tests for malnutrition and anaemia, a pharmacy and the mobile dental clinic.
In 2007, there were 738 newly registered pregnant women; 1,255 newly registered children; 1,738 home visits; 10,0056 visits to the well-baby clinic; 5,609 antenatal visits; and 1,289 women received family planning services. 2,729 patients were examined by the dentist.
There were 10,836 families registered at the Shij'ia Clinic - now these families will be unable to receive any medical provision until the Clinic is rebuilt and operating again.
Here Archdeacon Philip Morris explains the Church in Wales' link with the healthcare clinics in Gaza:
"The horrific mutual violence of recent days in Gaza and Israel has left hundreds of Palestinians dead or wounded, has caused deaths and injuries among Israeli citizens, and terrified so many on both sides. A terrible period of deadlock and deprivation for the people of Gaza, with the cutting off of food, medicine and fuel for a population of 1.5 million, and the random firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, has now erupted into greater violence. The possibility of Israeli ground forces entering Gaza would result in the loss of many lives on both sides, and deepen what is emerging as a humanitarian disaster.
"Amongst an overwhelming Muslim population works the Christian Near East Council of Churches (NECC), the second-largest NGO based in Gaza. The NECC’s vision is for a Palestinian society where people receive adequate health and educational services and enjoy better quality of life. To achieve this, it runs family health centres, occupational workshops, vocational and technical training programmes, self-help co-operatives – and a mobile dental clinic, which is solely funded by the people of Wales through the Church in Wales Jubilee Fund.
"The dental clinic van, with its Welsh red-dragon stickers, is a familiar sight in Gaza City, and wherever it parks, men, women and children queue up outside it for treatment. In 2007, 5307 people were examined by the dentist, and very few did not need any treatment. All examinations, treatments and medicines are provided free of charge, thanks to the generosity of churches and individuals in Wales.
"But now the concern of the Church in Wales is for the very existence of the dental clinic and the offices of the NECC based in the centre of Gaza City and very close to buildings destroyed by air strikes. Pictures in the media show how widespread is the devastation to buildings in the city, with the resultant severe damage to the civilian infrastructure. Many areas are left without water, electricity or communications. Normal life does not exist. Already, agencies such as Oxfam and Christian Aid have had to suspend most of their humanitarian work in Gaza because of the bombing. People are simply too scared to leave their homes even to seek medical help. These are fears shared by NECC’s own staff. Doctors and nurses are travelling to the clinics in marked cars for their safety, despite fears that private cars will be targets for the bombings. The NECC clinics' good warehousing facilities mean they have supplies of medical equipment with a long shelf life. But they were already having difficulties getting supplies of perishable medical supplies due to the blockade on Gaza. They are now reporting major shortages, particularly for treating emergency cases, underlining the need to ensure humanitarian access to Gaza.
"The NECC describes its work as “an injection of hope – touching people, healing them, and giving them hope.” The Church in Wales, through its funding of the Dental Clinic, sees itself as being part of that work, without any political agenda, simply providing humanitarian aid where it is needed, as it has done in many other parts of the world through the Jubilee Fund.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Gaza and Israel at this time. We look forward to hearing news from the Council of Churches in Gaza, and of the dental clinic. As we start a New Year, our hope is that there will come a change that will bring a just and lasting peace closer in the Middle East. It will need courage, constructive leadership, and a commitment to that hope – but in the mean time, the concern is for the suffering peoples of both sides, and that the humanitarian work such as that of the NECC may be able to continue."
You can contribute to the work of the NECC through its dental clinic and health centres by sending money or a cheque, made payable to the Church in Wales Jubilee Fund, to The Church in Wales, 39, Cathedral Rd, Cardiff, CF11 9XF
Entered By Anna Morrell on Wednesday 14th of January 2009Anna Morrell, Archbishop’s Media Officer
Church in Wales
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