Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace'
In further extraordinary and unexpected gestures of support for the four Christian peace activists held captive by a militant group in Iraq, both the head of the world's oldest Islamic movement and a leading armed Islamist organisation have called for the abductees to be released.
Hezbollah (Party of God) was formed in Lebanon in 1982, and is a committed opponent of the state of Israel. Hasan Hudruj and Mahmud Al-Qumati, two senior members of the group, joined other signatories of a letter issued in Yemen by Islamic scholars and activists calling for mercy.
'We have been saddened by the kidnapping of these peace activists whose only mission in Iraq has been to express solidarity with the Iraqi people,' the petition says.
It goes on: 'Such peace activists should have been welcomed into Iraq and treated as honourable guests instead of being kidnapped and used as a bargaining chip.'
The statement decries 'all illegitimate acts of aggression against innocent civilians, including kidnappings,' saying those actions 'only harm the just cause of the Iraqi people.'
This evening (Friday, 9 December 2005) there was a bomb blast outside the house of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, who sits on the movement's Shoura Council - its top decision-making authority - in Lebanon. He escaped, but the group has vowed revenge against 'the Zionist enemy'.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, president of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest Islamic group in the world, said Dr Norman Kember and three other hostages were being held against their religion's principles.
'In the name of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide I call for the western peace activists in Iraq to be released immediately,' said Mr Akef on Arabic news station al-Jazeera.
'All laws locally and internationally consider kidnapping a crime, particularly when it targets innocent peace activists who are known for their activity and solidarity for the Iraqi cause', he went on. 'Kidnapping will only distort the image of Iraq.'
The Brotherhood, which is influential in Egypt although officially banned, said the hostages were from a group which worked with Palestinian people 'against Israeli aggression' and should be welcomed.
In Iraq today Sunni clerics joined vigils and protests calling for the release of Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members Tom Fox, Harmeet Sooden, James Loney and Norman Kember.
Over the past two days there have been Palestinian demonstrations for them is in Hebron and Ramallah.
The militants who are holding the member, the Swords of Righteousness (Truth) Brigades, say they will be killed if all prisoners held by the authorities and coalition troops are not released.
But Muslim opinion, including that of strongly Islamist organisations, is massively against such a course of action. A reprieve was one on Wednesday, but is currently due to run out tomorrow.
'The world is praying for your brothers, these doves of peace', a Muslim cleric told Ekklesia.
[Also on Ekklesia: Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams; Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq; Christians aid Muslim non-violence initiative in Iraq]