14.07.06 15:06 Alter: 6 yrs

A Statement of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service on the current violence in the Middle East

 

July 14, 2006

"As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!'" (Luke 19: 41-42a, NRSV)

Jesus' lament echoes over the landscape of the Middle East, and in the hearts of men and women everywhere, as we witness the senseless violence engulfing the region. Is there ever to be an end to violence in the land we call holy?

What has violence solved these last 60 years? What has violence solved these past weeks?

Any hope for peace, itself a miracle in the midst of occupation, was stifled with Israel's missile strike on Gaza and the death of innocent Palestinians. Any chance of reconciliation was hindered by the retributive attacks and kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas. Any call for restraint was ignored with disproportionate retaliations by Israel. Any plea for reason was cast aside with the capture of two more Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. Any prayer for an end to this escalation of hostilities was silenced with the Israeli incursions into Lebanon, the subsequent shelling of Haifa and Beirut, and the death of more and more civilians.

We hear Jesus' lament in the cries of the Israelis, Palestinians, and Lebanese, the Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others whose lives are threatened by this unending violence. Where can this cycle of vengeance, retribution and violence lead?

When will all Israeli leaders see that aggression only breeds more aggression, and that security cannot be achieved through the oppression and humiliation of others? When will all Palestinian leaders understand that calls for justice demand the doing of justice, and that suffering injustice does not confer moral license to respond with violence? When will the United States see that being an honest, effective broker for peace requires fairness in our dealings with both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and now the Lebanese, and that doing nothing to end the violence costs us dearly in spirit, blood, treasure, and moral integrity?

The National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service:

Call upon our own government and all governments, recognizing the success of former peace initiatives, to encourage aggrieved parties to engage in earnest negotiation, and through the United Nations to work with all concerned parties to address immediate humanitarian needs and to resolve the long-term issues underlying the continued violence;

Call upon all parties in the Middle East to end the current hostilities, to develop non-violent strategies for engagement, and to work toward a just and sustainable settlement of the issues that plague the region;

Call upon the religious communities of the region to pray, teach and lead their people in the ways of peace, and upon religious communities throughout the world to walk with them in solidarity until peace is achieved; and,

Call upon its member communions to pray for all those who have suffered and died as a result of this violence, and their families and communities, and to engage in humanitarian and advocacy actions for peace.

We issue this statement remembering the words of Jesus Christ: "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52, NRSV).