World church leaders call for end to violence in Middle East
A joint appeal signed today by the leaders of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) calls "upon Israel and Hezbullah to end the fighting in Lebanon" and "upon the United States, the European Union, and the Arab States to exercise their influence toward this end". It also calls "upon the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas to end the conflict in Gaza".
With the title "A call to end the violence", the joint appeal is signed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, LWF president Bishop Mark Hanson and WARC president Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick.
The full text of the appeal 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 Hezbullah 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. Hezbullah, 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 Hezbullah, 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
World Council of Churches
Rev. Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick
World Alliance of Reformed Churches
Bishop Mark Hanson
Lutheran World Federation