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
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