Mennonites call on USA and Canada to pursue nonviolent alternatives
A leading Mennonite international relief and development agency is urging the Canadian and United States governments to promote non-violent and equitable paths towards resolving the conflict in the Middle East.
In letters addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President George Bush, Mennonite Central Committee (a North American organization supported by one of the leading ëhistoric peace churchesí) expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Lebanon and Gaza and urged government leaders to use the influence of their office to negotiate an end to the violence.
Both letters warn that military attacks and reprisals will not create conditions for peace and security and that the humanitarian disaster in Lebanon and Gaza could escalate to a broader regional conflict. Mennonite Central Committee has been working in the Middle East for almost 60 years.
ìCanada has a respected role in the international community. We urge you to do your utmost to seek alternative ways of promoting security for all people in the region,î writes Don Peters, executive director of MCC Canada, in a letter to Prime Minister Harper.
ìAs a Christian agency committed to principles of nonviolence, we renounce all acts of violenceóbe they acts of terror or the excessive use of military force,î states a letter sent to President Bush from Harriet Sider Bicksler, MCC United States board chair.
ìCertainly, attacks on Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah must stop but we do not accept that Israel's drastic actions are the only way to accomplish this, nor do we believe that these actions will, in fact, give Israel security in the longer term,î said Peters.
He stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in a way that is fair, equitable and in keeping with international law.
ìCanada's longstanding official policy of seeking a two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, together with a recognition of the rights of refugees, may still be the best way of accomplishing this,î states Peters. ìTo a large extent this policy was embodied in the 1993 Oslo Accords which so raised the hopes of many Palestinians. Unfortunately, developments in subsequent years have deviated far from that plan.î
Sider Bicksler urged President Bush to use his influence to promote direct talks between Israel and Hamas and Israel and Hezbollah.
ìTalking to groups who have used terror as a tactic is not rewarding them,î she said. ìRather, it offers an opportunity to understand their concerns, to directly challenge their tactics and to work for mutually agreeable outcomes.
She also asks President Bush to take an ìeven-handed approachî to help negotiate a resolution.
ìWe are dismayed by the recent US decision to speed a shipment of precision-guided bombs to Israel for use in their military campaign in Lebanon,î said Sider Bicksler. ìHow can the United States play a constructive role in helping to defuse the conflict while supplying arms to one of the parties?î
The importance of calling for an end to the violence and working towards solutions that lead to mutual understanding were also emphasized in a letter sent to President Bush by Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of Christian churches and church-related organizations based in Washington, D.C. MCC is a member of this coalition.
An action alert developed by the MCC office in Washington encourages people to contact their government legislators to urge the US government to take constructive steps to prevent the conflict from escalating further and addressing the root causes of the conflict.
A 24 July 2006 report on Lebanon submitted by the Middle East Council of Churches states the conflict has resulted in the death of close to 400 people. About 1,200 people have been injured and 950,000 have been displaced.
Damage to infrastructure is estimated at 2.7 billion US dollars. The daily direct economic loss is about 15 million US dollars and daily indirect loss is about 100 million US dollars.
With grateful acknowledgements to Gladys Terichow of MCC.
[Also on Ekklesia: 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 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 ]