The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA joins with the ecumenical community worldwide in calling upon the United States Government to reverse its decision to end funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees. We join with the World Council of Churches in naming this action “immoral and unjust, driving Palestinian refugees to more hopelessness, despair, and desperation.” While the United States is not the only funder of UNRWA, the Trump Administration’s decision leaves a $200 million deficit, one that will leave some of the most vulnerable people in the world without resources needed for a healthy society.
According to NBC News, “UNRWA schools provide education to 515,000 children. The organization also provides health care, relief, social services and other types of help to almost 2.1 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 2 million others in Jordan, 560,000 in Syria and 450,000 in Lebanon.”
In addition, cuts specifically in funding for hospitals threaten the future of these institutions and represent a grave threat to Palestinians. These additional cuts were ostensibly to punish the Palestinians for what the Administration sees as inadequate movement in political negotiations. As Dr. Hanan Ashrawi stated, “Such an act of political blackmail goes against the norms of human decency and morality.”
We, therefore, also join with Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in calling for the release of $25 million of US FY 2017 funding, also unfairly withheld, for the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem. These funding cuts put AVH, a source of state-of-the-art cancer care, in grave danger.
Ultimately, with the Administration’s recent move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and now the cutting of humanitarian funding to Palestinian refugees, a peace that provides a just two-state solution for both Palestinians and Israelis is made more remote.