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By Tim Clarke Wednesday 30 January 2013 Updated: 31/01 15:52
THE BISHOP OF Worcester has spoken of his great sadness at witnessing the suffering of people in Gaza caught up in the conflict which continues to plague the region.
The Right Reverend Dr John Inge has just returned from a seven day trip to the West Bank and Gaza to see the difference projects run by Christian Aid and its partners are making to the lives of those trapped at the centre of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
And it was his visit to Gaza which had the biggest impact on Bishop John as he came face-to-face with the devastation caused by clashes between the ruling Hamas and neighbouring Israel.
An Israeli blockade of the area has also increased the suffering of people in Gaza - a place Bishop John described as a vast and miserable prison for its 1.6million inhabitants.
But amidst the misery he also discovered stories of hope as Christian Aid and its partners work together to try and support the communities who live among buildings ravaged by rocket-fire and bombings.
"I found it depressing and deeply affecting to see how there is an attitude among most people of resignation towards the horrible situation they face," he told the Standard.
"But at the same time there is an extraordinary human spirit that rises above that from incredible individuals that are doing amazing work and refuse to allow their spirit to be squashed."
Among the projects he visited was a health clinic set up by the Near East Council of Churches where Christians offer care to the overwhelmingly Muslim population.
He was also introduced to another Christian Aid partner which has been offering trauma counselling to children affected by bombing and shelling.
"The work they are doing is inspirational," Bishop John said.
"What was so heart-rending was seeing the pictures children had drawn showing the contrast between Gaza as they see it now compared with life as they want it to be, with peace and harmony."
Bishop John said the trip had not left him feeling optimistic about a peace settlement but he urged the international community to continue to press the Israeli government to engage in negotiations.
"I'm a supporter of Israel but I am also a supporter of the Palestinians and my fear is that unless the Israeli government changes tack and seriously enters into negotiations to form a two state solution the future will be bleak for Israel as well as the Palestinians," he said.
"The clock is ticking for a just settlement to be found but I am not convinced they will find it themselves - they need the international community to support them."
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