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Statement Of The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, NCC General Secretary On The Withdrawal Of Israeli Forces From South Lebanon 

            June 1, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – The Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (“National Council of Churches”), today issued the following statement regarding the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon: 

“Observing the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from south Lebanon, we offer thanks to God that this destructive, oppressive and ultimately futile military occupation finally has come to an end.  For 20 years, the people of south Lebanon have endured daily violations of their rights, persons and properties, while Israel has achieved neither the peace nor the security that were the declared aims of their occupation.  Rather, it has provoked the fierce resistance of the Lebanese people.   In the ensuing struggle, thousands of lives have been lost.  

“Recognizing that there are still many steps on the way to justice, peace and stability between Israel and Lebanon and with neighboring Syria, we are thankful that this major step has been taken. 

“The NCC has called repeatedly for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426 demanding Israeli withdrawal to the internationally recognized border.  We support the role that the United Nations and its member states are now playing to stabilize this situation and verify Israel’s compliance.  We call upon on all parties to cooperate with and facilitate the U.N.’s fulfillment of this task without conditions, and in surveying and identifying the internationally recognized border between Lebanon and Israel. 

“God desires that we ‘seek peace, and pursue it.’   Therefore, we urge all parties: exercise forbearance; avoid provocation and the creation of pretexts; disavow violence and refrain from further hostilities and armed conflict.  While urging Israel to continue the process of withdrawal from occupied territories, we note that long standing territorial claims and disputes between Egypt and Israel in Taba in the Sinai and between Jordan and Israel in Wadi Arava were resolved without resort to violence.  Therefore, let not one more life be lost. 

“We share in the relief and joy of the people of Lebanon that their sufferings due to the occupation are at an end.  Long sundered families have been united, prisoners have been freed, exiles have returned.  In cooperation with the global ecumenical community and our church partners in Lebanon, we will join in the task of providing relief and reconstruction assistance so that normal life can begin to be restored. 

“The end of the occupation enables the people of Lebanon to reclaim their land and reunite themselves as one people.  We support and encourage those measures that strengthen the government of Lebanon and assist its effective return to these areas, and that also would heal divisions between communities and nurture the re-emergence of civil society.  The full restoration of Lebanon’s territorial integrity should encourage Lebanon’s unity, sovereignty and independence. 

“In this regard, we note especially the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who now, for the first time in a generation, gaze poignantly at their lost homeland across the border fence.  A just resolution of the status of the Palestinian refugees, who are both vulnerable and victimized, is critical for the stability and security of Lebanon, Israel and the region.  

“Having taken this step toward relinquishing the occupied lands of a neighboring Arab state in compliance with international law and explicit U.N. resolutions, Israel should be encouraged and emboldened to continue the process.  Many Israeli families have felt agony and grief over the death of their sons during the occupation of south Lebanon; neither have the residents of northern Israel escaped the cycles of violence against which the occupation was to protect them.  For their sake as well, all outstanding matters that are a source of conflict, such as the holding of Lebanese prisoners, should be resolved immediately.  At the same time, no spurious arguments should be made nor impediments placed in the way by any party, for this is the path to a just peace and a secure future for all. 

“We ask that God be present with all those who are living through this extraordinary moment, to temper exuberance and to cool passions, to alleviate pain and comfort sorrows, to allay fears and suspicions, to encourage faintheartedness, to banish hate and the desire for vengeance, and to grant a spirit of magnanimity and forgiveness.  And may all receive God’s presence, for God will call all to account in God’s time.  

“May the God of Abraham, worshipped by Jew, Christian and Muslim, grant peace to every soul and nation.” 


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