Ecumenical delegation to Middle East will express solidarity, listen to and pray with those afflicted by the conflict
Entrusted with the mission of expressing global ecumenical solidarity with churches and people affected by the current conflict in the Middle East, a three-member ecumenical pastoral delegation composed of representatives of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Catholic Bishops' Conference of France, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) today left Cyprus by boat en route for Beirut.
The members of the delegation are CEC President Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, the [Roman Catholic] Archbishop of Tours (France) Mgr. Bernard Aubertin, and WCC programme executive on racism, Ms Marilia Alves-Schüller. They are expected to stay in Beirut for two days before travelling (via Larnaca and Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem, where they will spend another two days before returning on or around 16 August.
While in Beirut, the delegates will worship with Lebanese Christians and visit areas affected by the bombings; they will also meet with religious and political leaders, government officials, and members of civil society groups. The staff person in charge of the WCC's Middle East regional desk, based in Beirut, Michel Nseir, is coordinating the visit.
The pastoral visit to Jerusalem will likewise include listening to people's experiences of the conflict, praying together with local Christians, and meeting with officials of the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
On 3 August, WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, addressed an appeal to "do whatever is possible to stop the bombings, negotiate a cease-fire and a comprehensive peace settlement" in Lebanon to "the leaders of the international community, especially to those from the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom".
In an earlier, 21 July pastoral letter to WCC member churches in Europe, North America and the Middle East, Kobia encouraged them to join before God "in lamenting the loss of life and destruction of homes and livelihoods", and to pray "for the safety and well-being of all communities in the Middle East - Muslim, Christian, and Jewish".
The Venerable Colin Williams, general secretary of CEC, in a 26 July statement on the Middle East crisis, said that "CEC joins with those churches which have spoken out calling for an immediate cease-fire" . He invited Christians throughout Europe to continue to promote moves to defuse the crisis, to give support for humanitarian assistance, and to pray for victims in all communities.
The full texts of the WCC appeal and pastoral letter, as well as additional information on other recent WCC statements on the Middle East, are available in the WCC on-line press room
Other statements by churches and church-related groups appear on the Decade to Overcome Violence website