Back in 2007 we became the inaugural co-chairmen of the Hampshire Interfaith Network.

Our aim was to improve understanding and knowledge between faith communities in our county. We are fortunate to live in a country where principles of tolerance and understanding are respected. We were uplifted to find in all the faith communities across Hampshire good people working not just for their own communities but for the common good.

In various capacities we have both travelled in the middle east and particularly to Israel and Palestine.

We have witnessed the problems and difficulties of establishing a lasting peace there. However, we also spoke to people whose ancestors spoke of a shared Abrahamic history, and centuries of living peacefully together, before the modern-day strife.

We therefore observe with horror the present situation in Gaza and more widely across Palestine and Israel. We understand this is in contravention of all religious teachings for the sanctity of human life, alleged violations of international humanitarian laws, and seemingly complete disregard of universal human dignities and values.

The current terrorist outrages perpetrated by Hamas, and the massive harsh reaction, and alleged war crimes, of the Israeli Defence Forces, do nothing to promote peace, tolerance and understanding - indeed quite the opposite. They offer no solution to an unacceptable situation facing innocent civilian life, following the reported hundreds killed by Hamas in Israel, and the thousands killed by the Israeli Defence Force in Palestine, in a region that has faced decades of hostility.

Currently, and almost 50 days on, well over a million displaced Palestinians are facing a medical and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as reported by international organisations UNWRA, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children International, with brave staff on the ground. We also note various global and social media showing tens of millions of people around the world marching for a halt to hostilities, humanitarian aid for Gaza and calling for peace - that includes Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Our fervent hope is that the initial short pause from hostilities can be renewed, and ultimately must be maintained, so that all sides can draw back from hate, and bloodshed, and be allowed to participate in the much harder task of finding a lasting, meaningful and peaceful solution, that respects Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities equally.

We have met and know there are many wise people of good will in the Israeli and Palestinian communities. 

We share their determined hope, that out of the present horrors and devastation, they will find a peaceful solution.
Roy Perry
Former leader of Hampshire County Council