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World ecumenical bodies
call for an end to violence
 

Geneva, Switzerland, August 8, 2006 – Three world ecumenical leaders, representing millions of Christians around the globe, have appealed to Hezbollah and Israel to end the fighting in Lebanon. 

The leaders – two of whom are American – also called upon the United States, the European Union and Arab states to use their influence to bring the hostilities to a close. 

Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Church in America and president of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, also called upon the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to end the conflict in Gaza. 

The leaders noted that “the number of Lebanese deaths approaches 1,000, one third of them reportedly children under 12, and the number of Israeli deaths moves toward 100.” 

Nearly 175 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed since Israel began military operations in the Gaza Strip, they said. 

“Whatever the reality of the alleged provocations by both sides of the conflict,” the leaders said, “the spiral of violence serves no end but the devastation of Lebanon and the inflicting of wounds of terror in Israel.” 

Issuing their statement “in the name of Jesus Christ,” the leaders said their organizations and churches are eager to help “work for a compassionate order that will lead to a lasting peace.” 

They said: “The task is great and the way is hard, for fear must be overcome with faith, hate with trust, enmity with reconciliation, and injustice with justice. But it is a task worthy  of out efforts and it is the way that leads to life.” 

The full text of the statement follows: 

A CALL TO END THE VIOLENCE

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and as leaders of the World Council of Churches and the worldwide fellowships of Lutheran and Reformed churches, we are shocked by the relentless violence, death, and devastation occurring in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. We mourn the loss of life. We abhor the untold human costs of this conflict, especially its impact on innocent people. We deplore the destruction of infrastructure and property. In the face of tragedy of such magnitude, we affirm that God calls us to do justice, reconcile with our enemies, and live together in peace.

We call upon Israel and Hezbollah to end the fighting in Lebanon, and we call upon the United States, the European Union, and the Arab States to exercise their influence toward this end.

We call upon the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas to end the conflict in Gaza.

The number of Lebanese deaths approaches 1,000, one-third of them reportedly children under 12, and the number of Israeli deaths moves toward 100. Whatever the reality of the alleged provocations by both sides of the conflict, this spiral of violence serves no end but the devastation of Lebanon and the inflicting of wounds of terror in Israel. Neither the terror of Katyusha rockets nor the destruction of Lebanese homes, schools, and villages can contribute to a lasting peace in the region. Such acts will lead to even deeper hatred between the parties than that which has fueled the current violence.

The Israelis have declared that they will continue military operations in Lebanon until there is a "peacekeeping force" on the ground. Hezbollah, in return, declares that they will not stop fighting until all Israeli military presence has left Lebanon. It is time for this intransigence by both parties to end. Israel must withdraw speedily from all the Lebanese territory, and Hezbollah, at the same time, must cease its actions against the Israeli people.

Close to 175 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed since Israel began military operations in the Gaza Strip. The devastation of the infrastructure of Gaza brings added hardship to people who already have nothing. The people of Israel know the terror of random rockets launched day and night.

While it is true that terms for a lasting peace cannot be reached in a brief time frame, the world cannot wait for signs of "a new Middle East" to stop the killing. It is time for the leaders of the nations, working through the United Nations, to bring to bear the full force of their influence. A cease-fire is an imperative first step to end the violence. As people of faith, we implore all parties, in God’s name, to agree to this, lest violence spread further through a region already stained with the blood of innocents.

When a cease-fire is achieved, we call the leaders of nations and other parties to begin the work for a compassionate order that will lead to a lasting peace. Our organizations and our churches are eager to share in that endeavor. The task is great and the way is hard, for fear must be overcome with faith, hate with trust, enmity with reconciliation, and injustice with justice. But it is a task worthy of our efforts and it is the way that leads to life.

In the name of Jesus Christ,


Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches

Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick
President
World Alliance of Reformed Churches

Bishop Mark Hanson
President
Lutheran World Federation

Photo from the Web site of the Middle East Council of Churches, headquartered in Beirut.


Contact NCC News: Rev. Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252, dwebster@councilofchurches.org

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