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Orthodox prelate adds voice to worldwide calls
New York City, July 28, 2006—An Orthodox archbishop in the United States has added his voice to a growing number of worldwide Christian leaders calling for the violence to stop immediately in the Holy Land.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of The Orthodox Church in America, one of the 35 member communions of the National Council of Churches USA, expressed his "deep sadness and profound distress" in a letter to his brother Orthodox archbishops in the region.
"We deplore the continuing bloodshed and violence that afflicts those lands rich in Biblical history and Christian ancestry," wrote Metropolitan Herman. "And we call upon all persons involved to negotiate an immediate cease-fire and to work together for a just, peaceful, and lasting solution, not only to this present crisis, but also to the many probems that are the source of such conflict." His letter was dated Wednesday (July 26).
The archbishop also called on people of goodwill to "prayerfully reflect on the evil nature of the violence," and urged people to consider the words of Jesus to "love your enemies" as we read in the Gospel of Matthew (5:44). He also called his church members to fast and pray for peace.
Metropolitan Herman is the latest in a long list of leaders of millions of Christians continuing to raise their voices for peaceful solutions in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.
Following the call for a cease-fire by the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service the South African Council of Churches asked its government to help broker a peace settlement. The SACC proposes representatives of the warring factions meet in South Africa and negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. The South African churches say their country's experience with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after apatheid is a strength they can bring to help broker a lasting peace.
"Such a peace initiative could address all affected areas in the Middle East ," SACC spokesman Joe Mdhlela told Ecumenical News International. "The SACC believes that South Africa's TRC experience could be adapted and used to bring about reconciliation in the Middle East, and that South Africa should take a proactive role."
Many other Christian groups and leaders worldwide have called for diplomatic efforts be undertaken to find a lasting peace. Many Christian faith groups have churches in the region and longstanding relationships with Christian communities in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. An estimated 20% of Arabs in Palestine are Christian.
These efforts stand in stark contrast to the efforts of some extremist evangelical Christians in the United States who are supporting the violence using misguided, even heretical interpretations of the Bible. Christian Zionism [www.christianzionism.org] has been around since the late 19th century. It has gained some following recently, which has been translated into influence on foreign policy with regard to the Middle East. This influence leads to uncritical support for Israel and an endorsement of violence against the Palestinians; it also ascribes divine favor to Israel and condemnation to Islam. Some proponents claim an all out war in the Mideast will bring the rapture, the end times. Many Biblical theologians disagree with biblical interpretations used to justify such violence.
Metropolitan Herman's letters (complete text below) also called for prayers. The NCC is offering a new website [www.seasonofprayer.org] as a resource for interfaith groups to come together in prayer. The website is offered by the interfaith ministry of the NCC and endorsed by Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders in the United States.
SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] - As the crisis in the Middle East widens, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of The Orthodox Church in America, sent letters of support to His Beatitude, Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch and All the East, and His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilos III of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, in which he shares the concern and prayers of the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America.
The text of the letters, dated July 26, 2006, reads as follows:
"It is with deep sadness and profound distress that we watch the conflict in the Middle East escalate to such already devastating proportions. We deplore the continuing bloodshed and violence that afflicts those lands rich in Biblical history and Christian ancestry. And we call upon all persons involved to negotiate an immediate cease-fire and to work together for a just, peaceful, and lasting solution, not only to this present crisis, but also to the many problems that are the source of such conflict.
"We implore all persons of good will to prayerfully reflect upon the evil nature of the violence that continues to plague the Middle East. We urge them to remember that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, never condoned violence or war in any form, but rather calls upon us to 'love your enemies' [Matthew 5:44]. And we encourage them to seek an enduring peace, which alone is the final solution to all human strife and discord.
"We join Your Beatitudes and the entire Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem in praying for the innocent people, of all faiths, whose lives are, and will continue to be, torn apart by the untold violence, suffering, and death that are the results of such conflict. And we especially pray for the Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Greek Orthodox Christians, so often ignored by the world community as an insignificant minority. Knowing that every human life is precious in the sight of God, we are asking our faithful to unite all the more fervently in 'prayer and fasting' [Matthew 17:21], that this present crisis will be resolved quickly, ending its toll of suffering and death.
"On behalf of the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, please accept from my unworthiness our expression of solidarity and love during this difficult time."
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