NEWS from the National Council of Churches, USA
Contact NCC News Service: 212-870-2252  |  E-mail    |  Most Recent Stories   |  NCC Home

Stated Clerk asks Bush
to press Middle East Peace

by Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick has urged President Bush to work with the United Nations and the Israeli government to find a diplomatic solution to the "spiral of violence" that threatens to erupt into all-out war in the Middle East.

Such an expanded conflict is a direct threat to the security of the United States, Kirkpatrick wrote in his July 14 letter.

Kirkpatrick denounced the "provocative actions" of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia group the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist organization, which initiated the current exchange of missiles with Israelby kidnapping two Israeli soldiers last week.

Israel responded with massive missile and bomb barrages throughout Lebanon in a display of armed might that Kirkpatrick called "disproportionateforce." Hezbollah has countered the Israeli attacks with missile attacks on the port city of Haifa and other targets in northern Israel.

According to a July 17 Associated Press report, more than 220 have died in the bombardments, most of them Lebanese civilians.

"We urge you to put pressure on all parties to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis," Kirkpatrick wrote.

A PC(USA) national staff member, Elias Sahiouny, is currently in Beirut, visiting family with his wife, Elian. Sahiouny, manager of financial services in Mission Support Services, has been in touch with colleagues at the Presbyterian Center here. Though sleepless, the Sahiounys are safe and waiting for the opportunity to get out of Lebanon and return to the United States, he said.

The full text of Kirkpatrick's letter to President Bush:

I write to you with deep concern about the growing crisis in the Middle East. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long been committed to working for a just peace in the region. Over the last fifty-six years we have consistently expressed our concern for peace between Israel, the Palestinian people, and the Arab states. We have called for United States policies to encourage and to help achieve the negotiation of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the region.

The current situation demands leadership by your administration for the sake of Israel, the United States, and all the peoples of the region. If the spiral of violence between Israel and Lebanon is allowed to continue unchecked, the countries in the Middle East could be drawn into another regional war. An expanded conflict will threaten the security of our nation. I urge you, Mr. President, to work with the United Nations and the Israeli government to do everything possible to bring about a diplomatic solution to this crisis before the region is drawn into all-out war.

We denounce the provocative actions of Hezbollah, and we fully recognize and support Israel's right to self-defense. However, the disproportionate

force being used by the Israeli military against Lebanon has caused the indiscriminate deaths of scores of Lebanese civilians, as well as major damage to Lebanon's infrastructure. It further escalates the violence, destabilizes an already weak Lebanese government, and, in turn, destabilizes the region.

We urge you to put pressure on all parties to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis. We urge you to work with the United Nations to put pressure on Hezbollah and its supporters to stop attacks on Israel and to return the kidnapped soldiers. And, we urge you to work in partnership with Israel to restrain the disproportionate use of military force.

As Presbyterians, we understand God's gift of peace to be most profoundly exemplified in the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Christ calls all who profess faith in him to share the gospel message of peace in a broken and insecure world. We believe we are called to build a culture of peace for all of God's children. We must have the courage to believe that peace is possible and take the steps necessary to achieve this goal.

The people of the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, are groaning under the burden of war and desperately desire peace. We implore you to not allow the extremists of the region to dictate the reality and final outcome of this situation. What is needed now is a sane and diplomatic voice, which the United States can provide.

Please use all diplomatic means available to you to restrain the violence and calm the situation for the sake of Israel, the United States, and all the peoples of the Holy Land and the wider region.


Presbyterian Washington Office
statement on Lebanon

by Jerry L. Van Marter
WASHINGTON--The Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office, has issued a statement expressing the church's concern about the renewed violence in Lebanon.  The text of the statement, dated April 19, 1996:
    "On behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I wish to express the deepest sorrow and concern for families on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border who have lost loved ones in the enduring hostilities of years and the rising violence of recent days.
    "Particularly do we lament that the people of all Lebanon have again been plunged into a period of anguish and suffering by the spill-over of this unresolved conflict.  The loss of life in Israel as a result of rocket attacks by Hezbollah is tragic and reprehensible, but the scale of Israel's response to the situation is morally unacceptable.  A plea of self-defense is incredible when the numbers of dead and wounded fall so
disproportionately on Lebanon.  Frustrations in facing the resistance and attacks of Hezbollah are not a justification for bombing villages and cities where innocent civilians are bound to be the primary victims.  It is unconscionable that the Israeli bombings have created 400,000 refugees. Targeting the infrastructure of a country still recovering from years of internal strife is a form of collective punishment that must be condemned.
    "We do not believe that the use of violence by either side in this conflict is justifiable or effective in the pursuit of justice and peace. And certainly escalating the level of violence will not make a durable
peace more likely.
    "We urge both Hezbollah and Israel immediately to end attacks on or affecting civilian populations.  And we urge Israel to abide by United Nations Resolution 425 which calls for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanese territory.  That seems an inescapable step in creating a situation in which full control over groups that would do Israel harm can and will be established.
    "In this tragic situation, we urge the United States government to call upon all parties to respect and observe recognized international humanitarian standards in their policies and actions.  The harm being
inflicted upon innocent people is wrong and unacceptable."

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073 
  E-mail   Web page:


Return to NCC Home Page