The United Church continues to be concerned about the worsening plight of Palestinian refugees. Our faith calls us to value compassion and human rights for all of God’s children.

On September 1, 2018, the United States government announced that it would cease funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), leaving it with a $446 million shortfall. UNRWA provides critical services for Palestinian refugees, described as “some of the most disadvantaged and marginalized people on the planet” by UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness. Among the services UNRWA provides are: basic education for 525,000 boys and girls at over 700 UNRWA schools; free health care and medicine for 3.5 million Palestine refugees at 150 clinics; essential food and cash assistance for 1.7 million extremely vulnerable refugees (see What We Do on unrwa.org).

Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, writes:

The need for humanitarian action arises from the extreme violence, pain, suffering, and injustice caused by war. In the case of Palestine refugees, this was caused by forced displacement, dispossession, loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as by statelessness and occupation. No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women, and children who cannot simply be wished away.

Take Action

Support UNRWA and tell others that Palestinian refugees’ rights and futures matter. The United Church of Canada has written a letter (see Downloads, below) to Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie requesting that Canada join with other countries in strengthening its support for UNRWA. Use this letter as your guide.

  1. Write to Minister Bibeau and/or your member or Parliament. You can find your MP’s e-mail or postal address by entering your postal code on the Parliament of Canada website. Call on the government to
    • Increase its funding to UNRWA
    • Help create new funding alliances and initiatives to ensure the dignity of Palestinian refugee children and their families
    • Continue to uphold the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence for the delivery of humanitarian aid
    • Affirm UNWRA’s current definition of Palestinian refugees
  2. Share this action in your networks. Use the hashtags #DignityIsPriceless, #ForPalestineRefugees, #UNRWA, #UCCan. Post a picture of yourself with a homemade #DignityIsPriceless sign.
  3. Donate to the #DignityIsPriceless campaign through the United Church. The global #DignityIsPriceless campaign seeks to uphold the rights and dignity of Palestinian refugees in light of dramatic reductions to UNRWA’s funding.

Background

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some five million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection, and microfinance.

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability, and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions; financial support has been outpaced by the increase in need. As a result, UNRWA’s budgets for core services, emergency programs, and key projects currently operate with a large shortfall.

The United Church of Canada’s decades-long accompaniment of global partners in the Middle East reflects the church’s belief in the human dignity of all people, inspired by the theological vision that every human being is made in the image of God. The United Church has consistently advocated for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and a just, non-violent, negotiated approach to solving the conflict, based on UN resolutions and international law. Concern for the dignity and rights of vulnerable Palestinian refugees is a central priority.

Read a blog from former United Church Moderator Jordan Cantwell, following her 2017 visit to Bethlehem.

For more information, contact:

Christie NeufeldtProgram Coordinator Public Witness416-231-7680 ext. 4078
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4078
cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca

Patti TalbotTeam Leader Church in Partnership416-231-7680 ext. 4018
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4018
ptalbot [at] united-church.ca