Mennonites issue action alert on Middle East crisis
As violence reached new levels in the Middle East over the past week, the North American inter-Mennonite aid and advocacy organisation Mennonite Central Committee sent out an action alert to friends and supporters, calling for root issues in the Lebanon crisis to be addressed by political and religious leaders.
MCC is a globally-respected development organisation which works with and beyond the worldís 1.3 million Mennonites ñ one of the historic peace churches, known for its commitment to reconciliation, social justice and peaceful witness to message of Jesus.
Mennonite Central Committeeís Washington DC head J. Daryl Byler warns that there is potential for the violence to spread further, as some are blaming Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah. The region is already extremely volatile due to the situations in the Gaza Strip and Iraq, he points out.
United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, this morning (24 July 2006), at the beginning of a Middle East tour to discuss the worsening regional situation.
She is meeting Lebanese leaders, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ñ who has condemned Israelís ìexcessiveî military actions and the devastation they have caused his beleaguered country and its citizens.
En route from Washington DC, Ms Rice said there was now an ìurgentî need for a ceasefire in Lebanon - but that the conditions had to be right. This is a slightly stronger statement than any so far from President George W. Bush, who has resisted pleas to help initiate an immediate ceasefire.
British PM Tony Blair, a firm Bush ally, has moved in the ceasefire direction over the past 24 hours, under pressure from international leaders, human rights and peace groups, and churches and faith communities.
Mennonite Central Committee is urging supporters and friends to encourage President Bush to take constructive steps that will prevent the Middle East violence from escalating further; and will address the root causes of the conflict.
Ken and Kass Seitz, Mennonite Central Committee Lebanon country representatives, write that it is ìvery painful to witness . . . this country, still in the process of rebuilding and getting on its feet from the previous war (1975-1992), torn apart again.î
Religion is seen by many as central to the current conflict. But MCCís J. Daryl Byler reflects from a Christian viewpoint: ìThe psalmist says that ëa king is not saved by his great armyí and ëa warrior is not delivered by his great strength" (Psalm 34:16). And yet for thousands of years, nations and resistance groups have sought to prove otherwise.î
He continues: ìThe biblical prophets, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament taught that peace can only be built on the practice of justice (Isaiah 32.17), that loving enemies is the only way to live like Godís children (Matthew 5.43-48), and that good is the only force strong enough to overcome evil (Romans 12.21)î.
Declares Byler: ìNeither hostage taking and acts of terror, nor overwhelming force, targeted assassinations and naval blockades will create the conditions for peace and security. Indeed, they cannot, for they do not lead to mutual understanding or the practice of justice.î
[Also on Ekklesia: Middle East churches document and condemn Lebanon horror 23/07/06; US churches appeal to Bush as Israel seizes Lebanese village 23/07/06; Aid agencies say Blair must call for immediate Middle East ceasefire 22/07/06; WCC urges churches to support Middle East appeals 21/07/06; Churches redouble efforts and prayers for an end to Middle East hostilities 21/07/06; Williams laments Lebanon vicious spiral of violence 20/07/06; Gaza, Israel and Lebanon crises are imperilling Middle East security 19/07/06; Historic Galilee sites hit by rocket attacks 18/07/06; Pope condemns Lebanon raids as G8 converges and Blair blames Iran and Syria 17/07/06; Christians call for end to Lebanon violence as Israel vows revenge 16/07/06; Middle East Christians in anguish over Lebanon violence 14/07/06; Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace'; Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas]