Methodists highlight tragic plight of Lebanese children
The Methodist Church of Great Britain has joined continuing calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East ñ and has highlighted the suffering of Lebanese children, in particular.
Church and development groups have been insistent that the path to a just settlement involving the warring parties in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon requires a prompt end to the destructive cycle of retaliatory violence.
However the international community has so far failed to persuade the Israeli government, in particular, to change the course of the conflict, with the United States holding out against an unconditional end to hostilities.
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday said that there will be no halt in its Lebanon attacks until peacekeepers are deployed. Hezbollah is also unwilling to back down.
Anthea Cox, Methodist Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, declared this week: ìThe Prime Minister has talked of ëgetting a UN Security Council resolution, which will give us an opportunity both to have a complete cessation of hostilities and to do so on a sustainable and lasting basis.í We call upon the British Government to demand an immediate ceasefire and to distance itself from the US support of the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon.î
She continued: ìWe welcome the Governmentís call for a United Nations peacekeeping force in South Lebanon and urge the disarming of militias in Lebanon as part of a negotiated settlement.î
Britainís major aid and development agencies ñ several of them Christian and Muslim in orientation ñ have also backed calls for a ceasefire, with a 35,000 petition collected in just four days and delivered to Number 10 Downing Street
Church leaders are especially concerned about the environment created by the conflict, in which children and young people are living. In the light of the recent bombings in the Lebanese village of Qana, which killed 37 children, Steve Pearce, who is Methodist Secretary for Childrenís Work, commented: ìChildren are bearing the brunt of this conflict, while adults fail to negotiate a peaceful resolution.î
Declared Pearce: ìThe figures for the dead and injured show that one in every three deaths is of a child, and that half of the injuries are to children. Children in these areas are exposed to the violence and hatred that is characteristic of war and could face serious difficulties in developing an understanding of what it is like to live in peace.î
Methodist Children is encouraging childrenís groups in Britain to lead prayers during this difficult period for the Middle East.
Steve Hucklesby, the Churchís Secretary for International Affairs, explained that the current situation is unsustainable: ìSooner or later, Israel and Lebanon must negotiate a diplomatic agreement to end this conflict. If Lebanon is crippled by military action that flies in the face of international law while the international community fails to speak out, the grievances of the Lebanese and other in the Middle East are likely to be long lasting.î
He added: ìThe fear brought upon Israel by military action from terrorists who are based in other countries should also be recognised. Clearly there are no easy solutions, but a first step towards lasting peace requires a ceasefire by all parties now.î
In association with the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church has recently published ëPeacemaking: A Christian Vocationí, which calls for the Church to be active in the uncertain and risky task of peacemaking.
The churches believe that peace is more than simply an absence of war; even before the current conflict, there were acts of violence on both sides of the Lebanese border. The report asserts that all Christians are called to be peacemakers on local, national and international levels.
[Also on Ekklesia: 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 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 ]