Middle East Christians in anguish over Lebanon violence
The Middle East Council of Churches has said that it fears the recent Israeli attacks in Lebanon could imperil the development work undertaken in the country by churches and others, as well as threatening the stability of the region.
The new crisis occurred after Hezbollah militants seized two Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border with Israel, in an attempt to force the release of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails.
Hezbollah also fired a series of rockets from Lebanon on 13 July 2006, killing one Israeli civilian and injuring 29 others.
In response, Israel has blockaded Lebanon from the air and sea, and has launched a major offensive in the country, killing at least 52 civilians.
Churches and partner agencies like Britainís Christian Aid say they are extremely concerned about the safety of all those living in the region, be they Israeli, Lebanese, or Palestinian. They are urging restraint from all parties.
In its statement, the Middle East Council of Churches ñ which brings together Christians from a range of Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic traditions ñ expresses fear of a return to conflict there and the danger that valuable development work could be undone.
The MECC says: ìOnce againÖ violence has taken over in Lebanon. The deterioration in the security situation has been very serious in the last 24 hours with Israel authorizing a ëharsh responseí to the capture of two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.
ìMore Israeli tanks are heading towards the Lebanese border since early this morning (13 July), and Israel has called up reservists.
ìIn South Lebanon, continuous air raids have severely damaged houses, bridges and main roads linking the southern villages and the south to the capital. This morning, Israeli attacks have been heard in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a very populous area. Tens of civilians were killed (of whom one [is a] family of ten) according to news early this morning, and the number of wounded is still unknown.
ìThe Beirut International Airport is now closed after Israeli air raids early this morning. All three runways are severely damaged. There is fear that electricity and water stations will be targeted next.
The statement concludes: ìDays of dread and despair long-lived by the Lebanese during the war seem to have returned. Your prayers and support are needed at this terrible time we are living in.î
Churches and faith groups in the region are organizing services to pray for a return to peace and stability.