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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.
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