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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

For the last 216 days, the first item on our news has been about war in the Land of the Holy One. The scenes of destruction, human suffering and sorrow leave an indelible mark on all of us. In the face of it all, it is tempting to turn away and say, “We can do so little; what can we do?”

The Anglican Church of Canada keeps this Sunday as Jerusalem Sunday. It reminds us that we all have a special relationship with the Land of the Holy One, and we are called to pray for its peace. Canadians have a particular bond of friendship with the Diocese of Jerusalem: the Diocese of Ottawa is its companion diocese, and Archbishop Hosam Naoum is a dear friend of our Church. Many of us have had the privilege of visiting St. George’s College in Jerusalem for a pilgrimage course and have met, learned about and witnessed the experience of Palestinian Christians in the Middle East.

The incessant violence and warfare in Israel and Gaza is overwhelming in its statistics: 1,100 Israelis and 34,000 Palestinians dead since Oct. 7, 2023, and 1.7 million people displaced in a humanitarian crisis, with emergency aid agencies unable to cope with the need and unable to cross the access points.

Enough is enough.

Calls for a ceasefire are increasing internationally, and I join with those who are crying out: the time for a cessation of violence is past due.

Bishop Riscylla, Bishop Kevin and I will be participating in parts of the Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage in Toronto this weekend, organized by KAIROS. This global movement of walking (or rolling) in prayerful solidarity with the people of Gaza will help raise awareness, raise money for humanitarian aid, and hopefully exert pressure on our leaders to urge a ceasefire now.

The march in Toronto will begin tomorrow morning at Bloordale United Church in the west end and conclude 41 km east (the length of Gaza) at Bill Hancox Park, next to the Rouge Hill GO Station, on Sunday evening. Over these next two days, people are encouraged to join in for as much or as little of the march along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue as they are able. This Toronto pilgrimage is one of many across Canada, culminating with the national Church leaders’ pilgrimage to Parliament Hill on May 22, which I will also be attending. For more details, you can visit the KAIROS website or just join in (wear white for peace!) at one of these waypoints:

May 11

  • 8:30 a.m. at Bloordale United
  • 10 a.m. at Islington Station
  • 2 p.m. at Christie Pits
  • 6 p.m. finish at Chester Station

May 12

  • 10:15 a.m. at East Lynn Park
  • 1 p.m. at Birchmount Community Centre
  • 6 p.m. finish at Rouge Hill GO Station

An important additional point: sometimes our calls for peace have been misinterpreted either as a capitulation to terrorism or as a political positioning for one side over the other. I am keenly aware of the increased and heinous antisemitism and Islamophobia increasingly prevalent in our society, exacerbated by the current situation in the Middle East. We must be vigilant in protecting and supporting our Muslim and Jewish friends and neighbours. Please reach out and assure your friends of other faiths of your support. I have personally taken the time to pick up the phone and call those I know and some I don’t know, just to say I am thinking about you, praying for you and walking with you.

And this Jerusalem Sunday, pray. Pray for peace and an end to conflict. Pray for the safety of all people who live in the war-torn corners of our world. Pray that the example of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will inspire all those who use force for gain to lay down their weapons and strive to respect the dignity of all human beings.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto