Responding to the Hamas-Israel War

St Columbans Mission Society logoSt. Columbans Mission Society works actively in Interfaith Relations in NSW with a long history of activity and involvement, particularly with youth and The Sydney Statement, and the Abraham Conference. Here, the St. Columbans Mission Society reports on its response to the Hamas-Israel War.

Director of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, Rev Dr Patrick McInerney, reports on our response to the conflict in the Middle East.

The present Israel-Hamas war has been horrendously destructive, with a huge loss of lives and property and the displacement of nearly 2 million people precipitating an unfolding humanitarian crisis. It has deeply impacted interfaith relations in the Middle East and around the world, including here in Australia. Both Jews and Muslims are traumatised by the killing and suffering of their family, relatives, friends, and co-religionists.


Abraham Conference
Jewish, Muslim and Christian representatives light a candle at the Abraham Conference Prayer Service for Peace

Our Response

In response to this conflict, we have tried to show solidarity and sympathy to both Jews and Muslims without taking sides in what is already a very polarised situation. We e-mailed both Rabbis and Imams with expressions of sympathy and support. Bishop Vincent and I made solidarity visits to the Parramatta Mosque and to the Parramatta Synagogue, where we met with the Imam of Parramatta and the Rabbi of Parramatta and their respective committees. Our visits were very much appreciated. At the Centre, we have been very selective in posting on social media, trying to avoid controversy and partisanship—especially when even the words used to describe what is happening are contested—and to provide our readers with accurate information on the background and the unfolding situation. We assisted Bishop Vincent and the Interfaith Commission in drafting a joint Statement on the Israeli-Hamas Conflict, calling for an end to the violence and a just and lasting peace settlement.

Prayer Services for Peace

On 26 October 2023, Bishop Vincent Long and the Interfaith Commission Diocese of Parramatta hosted a special prayer service for peace in Israel and Palestine at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Centre staff assisted in preparing the service and participated in it. The service was organised in a matter of days and opened to the public. Despite the short notice, about 50 people attended. Together, we prayed in solidarity with all the victims of the horrendous violence unfolding in the Middle East – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – and all who are traumatised by these tragic events.

Click here for Bishop Vincent’s Address at the Interfaith Prayer Service for Peace in Israel and Palestine.

On 6 December 2023, the Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Sydney hosted a similar “Occasion of Common Lamentation and Prayer for Peace” at St Mary’s Cathedral, which we attended. See the link for the report in The Catholic Weekly.

The Abraham Conference

For the 3rd time in its 20-year history, the Abraham Conference was cancelled due to conflict in the Middle East. It was scheduled for 22 October 2023. However, after the brutal Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7 October 2023 and the relentless retaliation of the Israeli Defence Forces, holding academic discussions without referencing the conflict would make interfaith seem ‘irrelevant’ – but the trauma was too raw, too deep, and too soon to be a topic of academic discussion. Accordingly, we postponed the conference and held an interfaith prayer service for peace instead.

On the 30th of November 2023 at St Stephen’s Uniting Church Hall, in the city opposite the NSW Parliament, we held a short, simple, solemn service that was appropriate for the sombre occasion. Representatives from the three Abrahamic faiths – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim – together lit a peace candle. There were scripture readings and prayers from the three religions, each followed by a moment of silence. I read Pope Francis’ “Invocation for Peace” from 8 June 2014. To conclude, all attendees were invited to light a tealight candle for peace. The interfaith prayer service was a powerful symbolic gesture of dialogue and unity among the Abrahamic religions, a counter to the divisive atmosphere in some protest demonstrations in the streets of our cities. More than 100 people representing the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths attended the 30-minute multi-faith service, imploring the God of Abraham to bring peace among the children of Abraham.


In our helplessness in the face of the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, we continue to pray to God to bring a speedy end to the conflict and a just and lasting peace. But we also continue to do what we can, reaching out to both Jewish and Muslim friends to show that despite the conflict, the bonds of fraternity and solidarity that bind all God’s people remain unbroken.

Rev Dr Patrick McInerney, Director, Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations.

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