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NCC delegation finds Lebanese looking for hope, action

New York City, Nov. 15, 2006 "One clear message that our delegation was asked to bring back to America was this: that the people in [Lebanon], whether they be Muslims or Christians or Jews, deserve a decent life, a future, and an expectation to be treated with dignity and justice."

So writes Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary for international affairs and peace, National Council of Churches USA (NCC), following his participation in a delegation to Lebanon last month. He was part of a panel that presented a report last week to the General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service on the delegation's visit.

"We were struck by the evidence of the violence perpetrated against the Lebanese nation: the physical violence, which rendered parts of Beirut and the rest of the country to rubble; and the psychological violence, which left the Lebanese with a fatalistic anticipation of more instability, destruction and death," wrote Dr. Kireopoulos in a document entitled "Bitter Wine: A Reflection on Lebanon after the 2006 War."

"While Israel had the right to defend itself, the response was not only swift, but surprisingly brutal," wrote Dr. Kireopoulos. "It is not surprising, however, that, despite some anger directed at Hezbollah for starting this war, its stature within Lebanese society has increased due to its ability to pierce the myth of Israel's military might, and that most of the anger is directed at Israel, and at the U.S. for enabling Israel's brutality."

The 250 delegates from 35 Christian churches met at the annual General Assembly, held this year in Orlando, Fla. Each day worship highlighted this year's Assembly theme, "For the healing of the nations," based on Revelation 22:1-2.

A litany, entitled "Witness to the Word / Sojourners to the Middle East," was offered as part of the opening worship. It is available at www.seasonofprayer.org, an online ministry of the NCC's Interfaith Relations program.

"We pray that our country rises to the high calling of moral obligation and never walks away from its responsibility to help clear the land of this scourge," read one petition, referring to the hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster bombs dropped on Lebanese villages and fields.

"As Christians in the United States, we must insist that our country, as an ally of Israel, and as producer of these reprehensible weapons, takes a lead in cleaning them up," read the litany.

In addition to calling for the weapons clean-up, the delegation also asks the U.S. government; to help with development assistance to rebuild Lebanese society and its infrastructure; to take the lead in implementing the United Nations resolution that ended the recent conflict; make a commitment to real efforts at resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"Today a certain sadness hangs over Lebanon. Also palpable is the feeling that hostilities could erupt again--between Hezbollah and Israel, among the various religious communities within Lebanon, between Syrian interests and Lebanese citizens--at a moment's notice," wrote Dr. Kireopoulos, as he concluded his reflection with a personal observation.

"The Notre Dame du Liban--the statue of the Virgin Mary--looks down upon all of this from her perch high above Beirut. In truth, she seems tense with worry and ready to weep, reflecting the anxieties and fears of her people, and aware that there is nothing so elusive as peace."

Other members of the delegation were: Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC President and executive director of the International Council of Community Churches, Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary, American Baptist Churches USA; Thomas Swain, clerk, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, director, Inter-Orthodox and Ecumenical Relations Department, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Rev. Raymon Hunt, executive secretary, Christian Education Department, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Martin Kromer and Edward R. Moon II, representatives, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends; Patricia Finley, clerk, Peace and Concerns Standing Committee, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

The NCC is America's oldest Christian ecumenical group comprising 35 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican, historic African American and traditional "peace" churches with nearly 45 million members.


NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, dwebster@ncccusa.org.


 

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