Global church leaders make peace boat trip to Beirut
A three-member ecumenical pastoral delegation composed of representatives of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Catholic Bishops' Conference of France, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) today left Cyprus by boat en route for Beirut ñ with the mission of expressing global ecumenical solidarity with churches and people affected by the current conflict in the Middle East.
"A bit like Jesus attending to his followers on the Sea of Galilee, these church leaders - representing Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican traditions gathered ecumenically - are personally trying to calm the gathering storm", an observer commented to Ekklesia.
The members of the delegation are CEC President the Rev Jean-Arnold de Clermont, the [Roman Catholic] Archbishop of Tours (France) Mgr Bernard Aubertin, and WCC programme executive on racism, Ms Marilia Alves-Schuller.
They are expected to stay in Beirut for two days before travelling (via Larnaca and Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem, where they will spend another two days before returning on or around 16 August 2006.
While in Beirut, the delegates will worship with Lebanese Christians and visit areas affected by the bombings; they will also meet with religious and political leaders, government officials, and members of civil society groups. The staff person in charge of the WCC's Middle East regional desk, based in Beirut, Michel Nseir, is coordinating the visit.
The pastoral visit to Jerusalem will likewise include listening to people's experiences of the conflict, praying together with local Christians, and meeting with officials of the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
On 3 August 2006, WCC general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, addressed an appeal to "do whatever is possible to stop the bombings, negotiate a cease-fire and a comprehensive peace settlement" in Lebanon to "the leaders of the international community, especially to those from the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom".
In an earlier, 21 July 206 pastoral letter to WCC member churches in Europe, North America and the Middle East, Dr Kobia encouraged them to join before God "in lamenting the loss of life and destruction of homes and livelihoods", and to pray "for the safety and well-being of all communities in the Middle East - Muslim, Christian, and Jewish".
The Venerable Collin Williams, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, in a 26 July statement on the Middle East crisis, said that "CEC joins with those churches which have spoken out calling for an immediate cease-fire".
Williams invited Christians throughout Europe to continue to promote moves to defuse the crisis, to give support for humanitarian assistance, and to pray for victims in all communities.
[Also on Ekklesia: Palestinian refugee camp hit by Israeli bombing raid 09/08/06; Mennonites respond to massive Lebanese humanitarian needs 09/08/06; World church leaders strongly condemn Middle East violence 08/08/06; Tony Blair phones Christian Aid director about Lebanon crisis 08/08/06; Hundreds of thousands march against the war in Lebanon 06/08/07 Cana mayor describes bombing horror and calls for Christian support 06/08/05; End this blind faith in violence, says WCC leader 04/08/06; Church group goes directly to Beirut to call for a ceasefire 03/08/06; 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; No way to security through fighting, says Holy Land bishop 29/07/06; Blair to press Bush for ceasefire as churches push for peace 28/07/06; Israel sees ceasefire hesitancy as a green light for its Lebanon bombing 27/07/06; Mennonites call on USA and Canada to pursue non-violent alternatives 27/07/06; Christian groups urge Blair to back ceasefire calls 26/07/06; South African churches propose bold Middle East conflict transformation process 26/07/06; Why violence cannot solve Lebanon or Gaza Strip showdowns 24/07/06; 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 imperiling 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]