Church leaders call for ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon

By on July 23, 2006

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Canadian leaders to remember Canada’s “proud history of peaceful intervention” and seek ways to help end the escalating war between Israel and Lebanon. “Once again, the peoples of the world are compelled to witness violence, hatred and pain in Israel and Lebanon,” Archbishop Hutchison said in a statement. “In the past few days the escalation of violence has greatly disturbed me, and all parties involved in the conflict need to be able to pause, take a step back and look for other solutions than those of guns, tanks and bombs.” Archbishop Hutchison urged all Anglicans and parishes across the country to set aside a time of prayer for peace and called on Canadians not to take the continuing bloodshed in that region lightly. “None of us must ever become complacent about the pain, anxiety and sheer terror that many innocent people on both sides of the border have and are experiencing as they flee from their homes to an uncertain future,” he said. Heavy fighting erupted between Israel and Lebanon nine days ago after a Hezbollah raid that resulted in the death of eight Israeli soldiers and the capture of two others. Israel responded to the assault with a relentless air campaign against Lebanon that has killed more than 50 people, including seven Canadians, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. About 1,400 of an estimated 50,000 Canadians in Lebanon have so far been evacuated. Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a global alliance of churches and other agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies, has reported that residents of Beirut and other parts of war-torn Lebanon have taken refuge in public gardens and parks where tents have been set up to provide people with shelter. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), a member of ACT International, has been assisting 260 displaced families in the Mount Lebanon and Beirut areas. “However, MECC [has] expressed concern about its ability to offer assistance to people in the south, due to the ongoing shelling of the area, air raids and the complete destruction of roads,” said ACT International communications officer Callie Long in a report sent to members, which includes the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada. “The first three weeks of the current escalation of conflict in the Middle East, which has engulfed Lebanon, has seen several hundred people killed – Palestinians and Lebanese civilians in their hundreds, and nearly 30 Israelis – creating a situation where everyone in the region is living in fear of their lives,” said Ms. Long.In a letter sent July 20 to members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which is a founding member of ACT, WCC general secretary Rev. Samuel Kobia urged member churches to “generously support” the ACT appeal to help address the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has joined church leaders worldwide in calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon. In an interview with BBC radio July21, Archbishop Williams also said he was “perfectly prepared to consider” a visit to the Middle East if it would help push the peace process. “I think every voice that can be brought in here needs to be brought in with the escalating humanitarian crisis, not only the deaths but half a million people now displaced and the likelihood of more having to leave their homes as we’ve heard on the latest news,” he said. “So I think that we have to ask, who is speaking for those in this situation who don’t have any choices? The people who have not chosen to be identified with Hezbollah, and people on the Israeli side of the border who have not chosen to be identified with the Israeli Defence Force; Israeli Arabs have died in the conflict as well as Jewish Israelis citizens. Who speaks for them and how are their interests to be defended by the world at large?” The Archbishop of Canterbury also condemned the Israeli bombardments saying that while all states have a right to defend themselves there were still moral issues to be considered. “The question is, morally, whether that right of self-defense allows any and every method and, without for any moment suggesting that there’s a sort of equivalence between terrorist activity and the activity of a legitimate state, the question is, what can a state morally do without subverting its own cause in self defense?” he said.

Author

  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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