Why violence cannot solve Lebanon or Gaza Strip showdowns
Mennonite Central Committee Washington DC head J Daryl Byler writes: ìIn 2000, Israel withdrew from a ëbuffer zoneí that it had occupied in southern Lebanon for many years. United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004, calls for ëthe disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,í which would include Hezbollah.
ìBut Hezbollah has grown stronger and tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have simmered due to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the disputed Shebaa Farms area, the continuing Israeli detention of several Lebanese prisoners, and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
ìOn 12 July, Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon launched Katyusha rockets aimed at Israeli outposts in the Shebaa Farms area and the Israeli town of Shlomi. Hezbollah forces also briefly crossed Israel's border and captured two Israeli soldiers.
ìIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared this to be an ëact of war.í Israel has bombed suspected Hezbollah sites across Lebanon and the runways at Beirut International Airport, and formed a naval blockade on Lebanon's Mediterranean shore. Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel, some reaching as far south as Haifa.
ìIn the past month, Israel has been engaged in a similar military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, killing dozens of Palestinians and targeting civilian infrastructure. This has resulted in a humanitarian crisis in the already impoverished Gaza Strip. Hamas has also fired small rockets at Israel and captured one Israeli soldier.
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.
ìRather than living into Isaiah's vision of a day when nations will no longer learn war (Isaiah 2.4), we have instead built increasingly powerful and precise weapons and sought to control others with threats and the use of force.
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).
He concludes: 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
Up to 750 Lebanese and some three dozen Israelis have been killed in the fighting so far, according to reports from the Middle East council of Churches and other sources.
Mennonites are one of the historic peace churches, along with Quakers and the Brethren in Christ. They have a long history of involvement in reconciliation, peace building, violence reduction and conflict transformation.
Christian Peacemaker Teams, established by Mennonites and others in 1984, came to global attention during the 2005-6 Iraq hostage crisis. They have been working for a number of years in Israel-Palestine.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christian Aid emergency appeal swings into action 24/07/06; Mennonites issue action alert on Middle East crisis 24/07/06; 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; Ex-spy wages peace on terror in the Middle East; UK church and aid agencies concerned over Gaza situation; Briefing on media accusations against Christian Peacemaker Teams; Briefing on Christian Peacemaker Teams]