We have taken our time to listen to our global community before putting together a statement - many of our community have experienced unspeakable trauma and ultimately there are no words which do justice to the immense human suffering witnessed over the past ten days in the Middle East.
The Hamas attacks on Israel which saw the brutal murder of more than 1,400 people and the kidnapping of hundreds of hostages, followed by a harrowing Israel military assault on Gaza which has killed over 3,000, injuring over 12,500 and growing, are devastating. Our thoughts are with all those affected.
We are also witnessing the effects of this conflict play out beyond the Middle East with an increase in anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic attacks happening around the world, fuelled by racism, hatred and bigotry. This is unacceptable and we must work together as a community against all forms of race hate.
We call for an immediate ceasefire. Peace demands an end to all violence, an end to the siege, and the safe return of all hostages. We must work to provide urgent humanitarian relief to Gaza where two million Palestinians are facing severely limited access to water, food, medicines, electricity and safe shelter.
At One Young World we cherish our shared humanity, and believe that everyone has a right to life, freedom, and basic human rights. And when terror strikes, if our leaders cannot extend the same degree of empathy for victims of one group as they do for victims of another, we have a complete and utter failure of moral leadership.
Right now, we are witnessing the collective, ongoing moral failure of world leaders play out at the cost of thousands of lives in Gaza, Israel, and the wider region. Now is not the time to shrug and say ‘it’s complicated.’ Valuing human rights and dignity has never been, and never will be complicated. Does the world really need reminding; war crimes and collective punishment are not justice and will not lead to peace? And without justice, what becomes of our hope for peace?
Real and lasting ‘peace’ goes beyond simply ending violence and illegal occupation; it involves guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of all people without qualification or exception.
We believe it is young leaders who will be at the heart of bringing about peace in the region. It is up to us to build dialogue that is unafraid to hold space and empathy for victims and communities who are traumatised and grieving, and we must be unafraid to look for common ground even when it feels impossible. We urge our Community to lead with compassion and never lose hope or give in to hate.
We know many uncomfortable conversations need to happen to begin a peace process – both at an international level, and within communities, including the One Young World Community. And while context is not, and must not, be used as justification for the unjustifiable, we ignore it at our peril and without it we risk repeating mistakes of the past.
We stand in solidarity with all aid workers, healthcare workers, journalists and all those making efforts to end the violence, prevent genocide, and alleviate the suffering in Palestine and Israel. Our Summit in Belfast showcased the work of peace builders whose leadership helped bring peace to seemingly endless conflicts. It can be done. It must be done.