US churches appeal to Bush as Israel seizes Lebanese village
The National Council of Churches USA and its partner humanitarian ministry, Church World Service, are among 16 religious organizations calling for President Bush to "work with other world leaders to secure an immediate cease-fire in the violent conflict raging now between Hezbollah and Israel."
The appeal has been reported amid breaking news that Israeli troops have seized the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras, an apparent base used by Hezbollah to fire rockets into Israel.
News agencies say that Israeli planes also bombed Beirut and the city of Sidon early on Sunday 22 July 2006, the twelfth day of the military campaign.
These developments mark a major escalation in the conflict. An Israeli Defence Force spokesperson yesterday told Channel Four news in the UK that the plan was to destroy Hezbollahís strongholds. The militant group has retorted that the area will become a ëgrave yardí for Israeli forces.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese authorities and people are distraught at the death, ruin and devastation being meted out upon their land, with the international community doing little to resolve the situation
The urgency of the churches request to President Bush to call a ceasefire was expressed in a letter from Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), an ecumenical group of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and historic churches and religious organizations in the United States.
The Rev Dr Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCCUSA, and the Rev John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, signed were among the key signatories ñ along with Mennonite Central Committee, the Alliance of Baptist, United Methodists, Quakers, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutherans and others.
The CMEP letter comes as the Middle East Council of Churches reports nearly 750 killed, 1,200 injured and 650,000 people displace in Lebanon.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
The Honourable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
We urge you to work with other world leaders to secure an immediate cease-fire in the violent conflict raging now between Hezbollah and Israel.
We are deeply concerned for the innocent victims of the attacks and reprisals between non-state parties in Lebanon and the government of Israel. This violent conflict has created a grave humanitarian crisis, and no hoped-for benefit should outweigh the cause of saving innocent lives.
If this conflict continues, the current humanitarian crisis could escalate toward a catastrophe. Already in the first days of attacks and reprisals, reports say that 34 Israelis have been killed, including 15 civilians, others injured, and thousands have been made to leave their homes, and, in Lebanon, at least 335 people, most of them civilians, are reported killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced or sought refuge in other countries.
In the face of such a humanitarian crisis, calls for the fighting parties to be restrained in their actions fall short of what is needed. Your presidential leadership and the full weight of the United States, acting in concert with the international community, must be applied now to achieve an immediate cease-fire and to launch an intensive diplomatic initiative for the cessation of hostilities. This is a necessary first step toward the diplomatic resolution of this crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the way toward a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Leaders of churches and churches-related organizations of Churches for Middle East Peace
Dr Robb Davis
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee
Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rev Robert Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
Rev Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church
The Rev Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev Dr Stan Hastey
Executive Director, Alliance of Baptists
Very Rev Dominic Izzo, OP
President, Roman Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes
Rev Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA)
Rev John L. McCullough
Executive Director & CEO, Church World Service
Metropolitan Philip Saliba
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of North America, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Rev William G. Sinkford
President, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Rev John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Rev Dr Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
James W. Winkler
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church