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Churches urged to increase pressure for peace

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    Churches urged by Lebanese government to increase pressure for peace -04/09/06 Posted at News briefing from Ekklesia
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2006
      Churches urged by Lebanese government to increase pressure for peace
      Posted at News briefing from Ekklesia

      Lebanon's minister for culture has called on churches around the world to
      increase the pressure for peace following Israel's attacks on Lebanon.

      Speaking at the weekend, Dr Tarek Mitri, expressed gratitude to the World
      Council of Churches (WCC), for its expressions of solidarity.

      At the same time, he said he expected WCC's solidarity to be expressed not
      only through humanitarian relief but also in terms of putting pressure on
      governments to revive the peace process in the region.

      Addressing a WCC Central Committee hearing on Lebanon that will be part of a
      broader public issues discussion on the situation in the Middle East, Dr
      Mitri said, "All of us Christians and non-Christians draw strength from the
      solidarity of people around the world.

      "WCC and member churches were among the first to respond, to speak a word of
      wisdom and courage, to launch a humanitarian appeal and to visit us."

      Dr Mitri, from the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, was formerly
      responsible for Christian-Muslim dialogue in the WCC. He referred to an
      ecumenical pastoral delegation that visited Lebanon on behalf of the WCC,
      the Conference of European Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and the
      World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

      He said the visit of friends from different parts of the world to a besieged
      city was not just an expression sympathy and solidarity but "a precious gift
      from God".

      Reminded of a similar visit in 1982 when Israel was besieging Beirut, he
      said, "These are times when visits count."

      Dr Mitri described himself to the Central Committee as an old friend of the
      WCC from a small country whose problems were inversely proportional to its

      He said since Israel's "collective and disproportionate punishment" of
      Lebanon began on 12 July, one million people, a quarter of Lebanon's
      population, had been displaced and 150,000 homes had been destroyed.

      He said Israel did not distinguish between offensive, defensive or
      preemptive attacks. It did not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

      Speaking at a press conference before the Central Committee hearing, Dr
      Mitri said there was evidence to accuse Israel of war crimes, including the
      use of prohibited arms against civilians.

      He said, "Lebanon will fight for compensation and justice. Asking for
      compensation will be important, but the political and juridical battle to
      uphold principles of justice is also very important."

      Dr Mitri told the Central Committee that Lebanon was a country that thought
      of itself as tolerant and pluralist. "We have known serious tensions and
      'uncivil' wars that divided religious communities. During the most recent
      onslaught, despite serious disagreements, there was an easing of political
      and communal tensions and a spontaneous solidarity among the Lebanese."

      He said the country had managed to recover following eight wars since the
      mid 1970s and that "Muslims and Christians alike hope and have faith in the
      ability of the people to rise up again."

      Dr Mitri said the two priorities to make sure such wars did not happen again
      were a return to the peace process for the region and the preservation of
      the integrity of Lebanon rather than "leaving it as a battleground for the
      wars of others".

      For the WCC, the crisis in Lebanon is part of the overall question of the
      Middle East. As the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia mentioned in
      his report: "It is not enough to condemn Hezbollah's military actions
      without going deeper into the history of Lebanon's relationship with Israel
      and other countries in the region. It is not enough to condemn Israel's
      invasion of Lebanon without also grappling with the issue of Israel's
      fundamental insecurity."
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