Church group goes directly to Beirut to call for a ceasefire
A leading church relief and development organization took to the world stage with other civic and religious aid groups today ñ by going to the heart of the Middle East conflict zone to appeal for a just peace.
At a press conference in Lebanonís beleaguered capital, Beirut, Christian Aid again called for an immediate cease-fire in the standoff between Israel and Hezbollah in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Dominic Nutt, Christian Aidís emergency specialist, told journalists: ìAt the moment we are struggling to cope. Water and fuel is running out. We need an immediate ceasefire and money for our partners.î
Christian Aid estimates it needs £2.5 million in the short term to deal with the enormous needs of nearly a million displaced people.
Church and development organisations are relying on local supplies, but have said that in a matter of days they will not have enough perishable food or medical supplies.
They also urgently need supplies of sanitary products, hygiene items, underwear, nappies, and milk and food for children and want to start trauma counselling in regions around Beirut, Saida and the Bekaa valley where they are helping people who have fled the conflict.
ìThere are 900,000 people we think who have fled the fighting and their homes and therefore their means of making a living,î Mr Nutt explained.
He continued: ìTony Blair's policy is having the opposite effect that he wants it to. He is driving moderate, normal people into the arms of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is feeding people who have been displaced in Beirut.î
Said Mr Nutt: ìThey are doing the hearts and minds job that Tony Blair wants to do with bombs. We are calling on Tony Blair to have the moral courage to reverse his policy and call without qualification for an immediate ceasefire.î
Christian Aid was accompanied by representatives from Oxfam, Save the Children and Islamic Relief in Beirut.
Relief agencies are continuing to find it very difficult to access some areas of Lebanon because of the security situation.
Mr Nutt commented: ìWe can venture out individually to some places but it is too dangerous for big convoys. There is no guarantee of safety. It has not improved for aid workers or the population.î
Christian Aid says that its various partners are preparing to enter areas in the south as soon as it is possible and will also be involved in the return and rehabilitation process at the end of hostilities.
ìIf Tony Blair calls for a ceasefire today we can bring bread in tomorrow,î Mr Nutt added.
The British Prime Minister has attacked NGOs for what he regards as their lack of realism about ìhard political factsî. But his own strategy has been under attack from MPS and regional experts.
[Also on Ekklesia: Methodists highlight tragic plight of Lebanese children 02/08/06; Development agencies petition Tony Blair for an immediate ceasefire 02/08/06; Unite for MidEast peace, say US Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Jews 01/08/07; Lebanon destruction a 'crime against humanity' says aid group 30/07/06; Jerusalem church leader seeks new Christian approach to Middle East 30/07/06; No way to security through fighting, says Holy Land bishop 29/07/06]